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.
Here is a quick summary of the methods you can try, in order to prevent flat head syndrome:
This guide describes and explains these methods in full, with the majority of these methods often being adequate enough so that there is no need for clinical treatment, if carried out within the relevant time frames as will be discussed.
Plagiocephaly Prevention Methods Explained
Repositioning and Tummy Time
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 and undergo helmet therapy treatment (outline in the final section of this blog).
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.
You can find more repositioning techniques here.
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 help with plagiocephaly prevention by reducing pressure on the affected area.
Encouragement of Increased Neck Movement
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 avoid flat head syndrome developing, 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 been called into question. For more information on what happens if you don’t treat flat head syndrome, please read our previous post.
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. If you would like to hear more about this from parents who have previously undergone this treatment for their own children, then please read our parent stories.
For further advice on how to prevent plagiocephaly, or if you would like to know more about the helmet therapy treatment we offer at Technology in Motion, then please call us on 0330 100 1800.