Flat Head Syndrome
Flat Head in Babies
A simple definition of flat head syndrome is that your baby has a head shape deformity, either to the back or side of the head. At about eight weeks of age, you’ll notice that your baby’s head seems slightly wide, or that an ear is pushed forward on one side, or that the brow is more prominent.
There are many different words used to describe the different types of head shape that can be presented in clinic.
· Plagiocephaly (play-gee-oh-kef-alley). This is the most common type of flat head syndrome and it describes an asymmetric flattening to the side of the head.
· Brachycephaly. (brake-ee-kef-alley) This is a wide head shape which can be very flat all across the back. The head can be very high at the back and the forehead may be very pronounced.
· Scaphocephaly (scafe-oh-kef-aly) This is a long thin head shape sometimes also called Dolichocephaly (doll-ee-co-kef-alley)
· Normocephaly (norm-oh-kef-alley) This is a normal head shape with the head width being 78% to 83% of the length and a diagonal asymmetry of less than 5mm. Looking down on the top, it looks like an egg.
Typically, babies are brought to us which have a brachycephaly with some amount of plagiocephaly and we also see scaphocephaly with plagiocephaly. This doesn’t mean that they have two things, it just describes the position of the flattening. Some researchers tend to mix these two different types of deformities, lumping them all together into ‘flat head syndrome’ but without knowing where you are starting, it’s impossible to know where you’re heading. We always quantify every individual head shape so that we know just where to allow the head to grow.
Typically, babies with Plagiocephaly develop a ‘parallelogram-shaped’ skull, with flattening of back of the left or right side of the skull, frontal bossing on the same side as the flattening and bulging on the opposite side at the back. There is sometimes a tendency to only look in one direction, as the neck muscles may be tighter on this side. This is called Torticollis and requires therapy to help correct it.
In deformational Brachycephaly there is no asymmetry, but the width of the head is much wider than usual. The back of the head will be flattened and taller than normal and the brow may be much more forward than usual.
Flat head syndrome tends to appear in the early months of your baby’s life, when the skull is still soft enough to mould. The skull can start to flatten or misshape because your baby is sleeping on the back every night, as per the recommendations of the NHS. PLEASE NOTE: It is important that you continue to place your baby to sleep on its back at night, as this will help minimise the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
After four or five months, our specialists can help reduce the severity of the deformity by providing advice or orthotic treatment. It may be that we recommend repositioning techniques – such as keeping your baby on its tummy during playtime – to give the head an opportunity to return to a more normal shape naturally. Approximately 10% of the babies that we see don’t need corrective orthotics, as the head is not very severe and these will become unnoticeable in time.
Find the right treatment
If you are concerned about your baby’s head shape, then our qualified specialists can offer the best advice and treatment to reduce this deformity of the head.
We’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions which will help you understand more about Plagiocephaly and other variants of flat head syndrome. We also have a selection of case studies and testimonials that provide an insight into our treatments, or you can read about parents’ first-hand experiences on our Facebook page.
If you have any questions, then we’d love to hear from you. Simply call us on 0330 100 1800 (local rate) or 0113 218 8030