Preventing Permanent Deformation in Babies with Plagiocephaly
While it might look alarming to the untrained eye, the flattened spot associated with plagiocephaly (A.K.A. Flat Head Syndrome) can be corrected and further deformation prevented. However, it’s vital to take action early on before the skull hardens, movement becomes independent and deformation becomes permanent. This guide explains how to prevent deformational plagiocephaly, using tried and trusted methods that are often adequate without the need for clinical treatment.
How to Prevent Plagiocephaly
If your baby is up to four months old, the repositioning techniques outlined in this section should at least help reduce the prominence of the flat spot. If they’re older than this, you may need to take further action – skip to the next section for details.
Plagiocephaly is most commonly caused by consistently lying with the head in the same position. The aim of repositioning is to break this cycle by encouraging your baby to vary the head position. However, habits can be difficult to change, even for a very tiny baby, and babies can be reluctant to play along. There are various techniques you can employ to help overcome this reluctancey, for example:
- Hold toys and objects of interest just out of eyeshot, encouraging your baby to turn round.
- Have regular ‘tummy time’ with your baby, where you lay them on their front to play.
- Change the positioning of toys in the cot to encourage your baby to face the other way.
- When your baby sits on your knee, ensure that they’re not resting their head against you.
- Carry your baby in a sling to minimise pressure on the head.
While you should always place your baby on their back to sleep in order to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), subtle variations in the head position can still help prevent deformational plagiocephaly by reducing pressure on the affected area.
If your baby has plagiocephaly and torticollis (the latter being characterised by a shortened neck muscle and the head remaining turned to one side), you should also attempt to encourage greater neck movement. Gently ease the head from one side to the other, being careful not to go further than is comfortable. Again, you could use toys as an incentive for them to turn. This should loosen up and stretch the muscles and improve mobility. You may also wish to enlist the help of a physiotherapist or osteopath to help build up mobility, core strength and midline stability.
If these techniques fail to make the difference you had hoped for, the next section explains how to prevent deformational plagiocephaly where repositioning techniques have failed.
What to Do if Repositioning Fails / Your Baby is Too Old to Benefit
If your baby is between 4 and 14 months old and still has a flat spot, you may wish to consider further action. Standard advice is that plagiocephaly will self-correct, but this isn’t necessarily true – especially in severe cases. It’s also commonly thought that the condition has no developmental side effects, but this assumption has recently been called into question. And, even if it doesn’t affect development, deformational plagiocephaly still has emotional implications for later life.
The most common treatment for advanced and severe plagiocephaly comes in the form of a baby’s flat head helmet, which gently remoulds the skull as it grows. Again, this is nowhere near as scary as you might imagine: the helmet is padded, lightweight and custom fitted, and the process is so gradual that once babies have become used to it, they hardly notice it’s there.
To enquire about a helmet or for further advice regarding how to prevent plagiocephaly, call Technology in Motion on 0330 100 1800.