How to Carry Your Baby and Prevent Flat Head Syndrome
When carrying your baby, it’s important to minimise pressure on the back of the head. Because the bones in the skull are still malleable, allowing your baby to consistently rest the head in the same position can eventually cause it to become misshapen. This post covers some of the best ways to carry your baby in order to prevent flat head syndrome from occurring, or at least reverse its effects in the early stages.
The Back to Sleep Campaign and Flat Head Syndrome
Ever since the Back to Sleep Campaign in the 1990s, parents have been encouraged to place their babies on the back to sleep to minimise the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While this advice is correct, the incidence of flat head syndrome has shot up as a side effect of babies spending too much times on their backs – both whilst awake and asleep.
Over the past couple of decades, manufacturers have developed all manner of products designed to make parents’ lives easier, from buggies and prams to carry cots and car seats. This has had the undesirable effect of creating what has been termed a generation of ‘bucket babies’, contributing further to the increased incidence of flat head syndrome.
Carrying your baby correctly doesn’t only help to prevent flat head syndrome. It also promotes the healthy development of muscles in the upper body and reduces the likelihood that your baby will develop torticollis. This is a condition characterised by stiffness in the neck, which in turn can increase the risk that flat head syndrome will develop.
Moreover, holding your baby in your arms rather than using a carrier increases cuddle time, an integral part of parent-child bonding.
7 Safe Ways to Carry Your Baby
As far as possible, you should hold your baby so that the head is not resting against you. Try to encourage him to face in alternating directions to promote muscle development in the neck and upper body.
Here are seven of the best ways to carry your baby:
1. On your hip – rest your baby on your hip, facing inwards. Alternate sides each time you pick her up.
2. Over your shoulder – carry your baby over your shoulder, gently supporting the head in a centered position. Again, don’t forget to alternate sides.
3. The swing – sit your baby in front of you on your forearm, as though he is sitting on a swing. Gently keep the head centred.
4. Sleeping tiger – carry your baby belly-down on your forearm, like a sleeping tiger.
5. In front – hold your baby in front of you to encourage her to turn her head and watch the activities going on around the room.
6. Aeroplanes – as your baby’s core muscles become stronger, reward him by playing aeroplanes (pictured, right).
7. In a sling – when out and about, use a sling, papoose or baby backpack rather than a buggy or basket to carry your baby.
You should start carrying your baby in these positions from an early age. Once infants reach four to five months, there’s a limit to what can be achieved in this way and further intervention may be required if a deformity is still present.
Other Top Tips for Preventing Flat Head Syndrome
- Try to minimise pressure on the back of the head for at least half the time your baby is awake. Tummy time (‘back to sleep, tummy to play’; pictured right) is ideal for this.
- Move your baby’s toys around to encourage her to face in different directions.
- When infants suck their thumbs, they tend to face in that direction. Try covering the thumb that your baby usually sucks.
- Alternate the side from which your baby feeds. (This will come naturally if you’re breast feeding.)
- Don’t leave your baby in a car seat or carrier for any longer than is necessary.
- While your baby should always be placed on the back to sleep to minimise the risk of SIDS, there are subtle ways in which you can vary the position of the head. A number of these can be found in our repositioning guide.
Once infants reach four to five months of age, they start to move around more independently and the bones in the skull begin to harden. If the above techniques have failed to make as much as a difference as you had hoped by this age, they are unlikely to be very effective at all.
At this stage, the only effective treatment for flat head syndrome comes in the form of a specially made helmet, which gradually guides the head into a more normal shape. These helmets, also known as cranial orthoses, are proven to safely correct head shape deformities in babies of up to 12 – 14 months of age.
The earlier this treatment is started, the more effective it is. Once the condition reaches the advanced stages, it cannot be treated at all except through surgery. So if your baby has a case of flat head syndrome that these techniques have failed to correct, or you came across these ways to carry your baby too late, it’s important to get the deformity looked at as soon as possible.
Call Technology in Motion on 0330 100 1800 to book an appointment at one of our UK clinics, or browse our website for more information on the prevention and treatment of flat head syndrome.