Carry Cots, Car Seats and Flat Head Syndrome
Do Baby Carriers and Car Seats Cause Flat Head Syndrome?
The dramatic rise in the incidence of baby flat head syndrome over the last couple of decades has largely been attributed to the Back to Sleep Campaign. Placing babies on the back to sleep is essential as a means of reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but if the baby is kept in one position, it can put continual pressure on the back of the head, which can eventually cause a flat spot to emerge.
However, it’s not just babies’ sleeping positions that cause the problem; their activity (or lack of) while awake is just as important. Increasingly, experts have been seeing links between long periods spent sitting in car seats and flat head syndrome – in terms of both incidence and severity. This can also have implications for overall muscle and neural development.
In this new generation of what childcare experts have deemed ‘bucket babies’, carrying devices such as buggies and car seats have become the norm. Manufacturers are coming up with increasingly sophisticated ways to make parents’ lives easier, with prams that transform into pushchairs and car seats that become Moses baskets at the press of a button. Unfortunately in this case, parents’ convenience comes at the expense of the babies themselves.
Not only does the overuse of such devices contribute to the likelihood of babies developing flat head syndromes such as deformational plagiocephaly; it also prevents them from using their muscles as much as they might. This can impair development and potentially cause the spine, hip and shoulder muscles to remain weaker than they should be for the age that the baby is at. Issues such as these and muscular conditions like torticollis, a muscle imbalance in the neck, prevent normal muscle development from happening as it should.
Car Seats and Flat Head Syndrome: What to Remember
Of course, when you’re taking your baby somewhere in the car, a car seat is essential. However, many parents also use them as carrying devices when they’re out and about and even at home, when really their use should be restricted to short car journeys.
Car seats and flat head syndome – repositioningIn fact, most devices used to carry or transport babies, including carry cots, buggies and prams, should only be used when absolutely necessary. As a general rule, you should try to remove pressure from the back at head for at least 50% of the time your baby is awake. This can be achieved by holding them in your arms rather than using a carrier, through ‘tummy time’, and by using a carry sling or backpack carrier, as these don’t apply pressure to the back of the head.
Acclimatised bucket babies often find it difficult to get used to this new way of life, but there are several techniques you can employ to make the process run more smoothly. These can be found here.
What to Do if Your Baby Still Has a Flat Head
If after several weeks of reducing the amount of time your baby spends in car seats and other carrying devices the flat spot hasn’t improved as much as you had hoped, there is another option. By the age of four or five months it is unlikely that the condition will improve greatly without specialist flat head syndrome treatment by means of a helmet.
Car seats and flat head syndrome – mirrorThese gradually remould the skull over a 3 – 6 month period, correcting the head shape gently, visibly and permanently.
Technology in Motion has been providing this treatment for 10 years with a success rate of over 95%. Browse our website for more information on our clinics and services; alternatively, call 0113 218 8030 to enquire about TiMband treatment or for further advice on baby carriers, car seats and flat head syndrome.
BMJ Plagiocephaly Study is ‘Severely Flawed’
Top UK Plagiocephaly Expert Says BMJ Plagiocephaly study is Misleading
A recent report on plagiocephaly treatment has come under fire from leading clinicians, both here in the UK and around the world. The study, published in the British Medical Journal last week, compared infants with moderate head shape deformities in treated and non-treated groups, concluding that there is little difference in result between the two groups. However, the BMJ plagiocephaly study was inherently flawed and experts warn that it gives an extremely biased view of what is widely regarded as a safe and highly effective form of treatment.
- Problems with the report include:
- Unsound selection protocols
- Flawed treatment regimes
- High drop-out rate for the treated group (66% to 73% which continued to be reported as a treated group)
- Selective reporting of data
- Combining of data regarding different head shapes
- Averaging of the data, which masks the individual improvement that infants may have achieved
A subjective and generous definition of severity was developed internally by the study group. This does not take into account the statistical range of head shape deformity in the population.
Furthermore, the treatment regimes that the group offered were not described or critiqued. It is clear that infants had been provided with poorly fitting and uncomfortable helmets that rotated and rubbed, subjecting them to unnecessary pain and discomfort. This would have had a significant effect on parental compliance and the final outcomes of the treatment.
Steve Mottram, Managing Director and Consultant Orthotist at Technology in Motion,
The way that the data has been presented mixes all head shape deformities and therefore minimises the specific effect for each type. It’s like reporting on 10 children who had broken arms and 10 who had broken legs. Combining the data ‘proves’ that only 50% of children with fractures recovered from a broken arm. The way that the data has been presented makes it meaningless and in this case, huge and misleading assumptions have been drawn from the results.
The BMJ plagiocephaly study does not reflect the results achieved by the TiMband, which gives excellent correction in over 95% of cases. We advise and educate on repositioning and only 70% of the infants that we see require TiMband treatment. We at Technology in Motion are proud of our results and the professional care and attention that we give to our patients.
We have been working for over ten years in this field and our ongoing mission is to educate and advise professionals and parents, and to treat infants who have head shape deformities with a view to reducing the severity and incidence of these distressing conditions.
We would like to reassure the parents who seek advice and treatment from us that all infants are assessed and treated as individuals. Each one achieves excellent results with minimal problems and no pain or discomfort similar to that which was identified by the report. The reported issues do not correspond with our experience or those of the parents and infants that we treat.
If you would like to enquire about treatment or have any unanswered questions regarding the recent BMJ plagiocephaly study, call our expert team on 0330 100 1800.
Best Places to Get Plagiocephaly Advice and Support
Mini Directory of Plagiocephaly Advice and Support Websites
Having a baby with a flat head can be rather overwhelming at times. While the condition is not proven to have a negative effect on development, it can still be distressing for parents who, naturally, want what is best for their little ones. But you’re not alone in all this. Plagiocephaly is much more common than you might have thought, affecting almost half of babies, and there are many fantastic resources out there that you can turn to for plagiocephaly advice and support.
Whether you wish to share your experiences with other parents or seek advice on plagiocephaly from the experts, this mini directory will help you find the right places to go in times of need.
Practical / emotional advice and support
BabyCentre Community – Plagiocephaly Support
Community forum where parents can seek plagiocephaly advice from Orthotists and other parents. BabyCentre also has lots of other useful information for parents, including pages on plagiocephaly.
Mumsnet has a forum with lots of active discussion relating to plagiocephaly. You can also find general parenting information, advice, news, reviews and features.
Technology in Motion on Facebook
Join a great community of parents sharing plagiocephaly advice, concerns and success stories. You can ask our expert Orthotists about anything you need to know, and find links to the latest news on flat head syndrome.
Plagiocephaly Awareness & Support on Facebook
Non-profit organisation run by individuals and families, offering support for plagiocephaly and related conditions.
Financial advice and support
Tree of Hope
Children’s charity, which raises funds for specialist medical treatment, therapy and equipment that might not otherwise be available to parents. Working closely with medical practitioners, Tree of Hope can assist with payment for plagiocephaly treatment and advise parents on fundraising.
Charitable organisation set up by parents, for parents, to raise awareness of plagiocephaly and brachycephaly. HeadStart4Babies provides fundraising guidance for parents who are saving up for treatment as well as independent plagiocephaly advice and support.
The world’s leading online fundraising platform. Set up a page describing your campaign and spread the word via email, social media and word of mouth, asking for donations.
Clinical treatment and advice on plagiocephaly
Technology in Motion
Expert Orthotists specialising in plagiocephaly and related conditions, with clinics all over the UK. Technology in Motion has over 10 years’ experience providing helmet treatment for plagiocephaly and can provide you with specialist plagiocephaly advice and support. Call 0330 100 1800 or contact us via the enquiry form to book an appointment.
Should You Be Worried About Flat Head Syndrome?
Looking after your baby can be an emotional rollercoaster. As a parent you want your little one to be as happy and healthy as possible, so noticing something out of the ordinary, such as a flat spot on the head, is bound to be a bit of a shock. You probably have a multitude of questions running through your head, such as: should I worry about flat head syndrome? Does it affect child development? Do I need to do anything about it?
First of all, let me assure you that flat head syndrome (A.K.A. flattened head syndrome) is nothing to worry about. It is easy to correct so long as it’s caught early on, and once treated, it will never come back. While various studies have investigated a possible relationship between flat head syndrome and developmental defects, none have been conclusive. If the condition does affect child development, the effects are likely to be fairly benign.
So is there any point in treating flat head syndrome?
While flat head syndrome might not be particularly harmful, you may still wish to have it looked at. Unfortunately, children (and often adults) can be very judgmental when it comes to looks, and some will treat a peer with an asymmetrical head shape differently from one who has a more ‘normal’-shaped head. Left untreated, your child might experience psychosocial issues growing up, and perhaps on into adulthood.
There’s also the practical side of things. Your child might one day dream of working in construction, the emergency services or the armed forces, only to discover that they can’t find a helmet that fits. The same applies to leisure activities such as cycling, climbing and horse riding. They may not be able to wear certain hairstyles, and insist on keeping the hair long in order to cover up the deformity.
So while there’s no need to worry about flat head syndrome being harmful to your child’s development, it’s certainly worth treating it while you still can. Many GPs and health workers will tell you that the condition always corrects itself, but this isn’t necessarily the case – especially if you don’t take action early on, or the deformity is severe.
Usually, all it takes is a few simple changes. By varying the position in which your baby rests the head, you can take the pressure off the affected area so that the skull grows into a more uniform shape. You should always place your baby on the back to sleep, but there are a number of techniques you could try that will encourage your baby to vary the direction in which the head is facing. Some repositioning techniques are listed here.
Most of the time, such techniques are all it takes to return the head to a more normal shape. However, if repositioning isn’t started early enough or the deformity is severe, further intervention may be required.
If your baby’s head is still noticeably misshapen by the age of four to five months, the only way to correct it is with a cranial remoulding helmet. These specially made orthotics are worn every day for three to six months, gradually correcting the shape of the skull as it grows. They’re safe and pain free, and have an excellent success rate with permanent results.
The bottom line is this. There’s no need to worry about flat head syndrome, but if it seems severe and you’re concerned about the effect it might have on your child as they grow up, you might wish to seek treatment. To enquire about a cranial remoulding helmet, or to find out whether you should worry about your baby’s flat head syndrome or if it is likely to go away by itself, call us on 0330 100 1800 and we’ll book an appointment at your nearest clinic.