At about eight weeks of age, many parents start to notice that their baby has started to develop a flattening. At this age, we always recommend repositioning to get your baby away from the flat spot whilst they are sleeping or awake. Here are some hints and tips on how to start to improve your baby’s head shape before needing to think about using the TiMband™.
During Sleep and At Night
Our first piece of advice is to always place your baby on their back to sleep, not on their side and definitely not in your bed. This advice has reduced the incidence of sudden infant death hugely. For more information on minimising the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, see the Lullaby Trust website.
- Babies may need your help to change their head position until they can do it on their own. As your baby sleeps, gently turn their head to vary the position that it rests in.
- Change the position of toys and other interesting things that your baby looks at, from one side to the other.
- Babies who suck a thumb tend to turn towards that side. Try covering the thumb that is sucked or encourage them to suck the opposite one.
- To encourage your baby to look at the other side and lean on the other side of their head, alternate the end of the cot that your baby lies at.
- If your baby sleeps in a crib or Moses basket in your bedroom, turn this around regularly so that your baby is not looking in the same direction all of the time.
- We cannot comment on or recommend the use of pillows or sleep positioners in the cot.
During Day When Awake
We recommend removing pressure from the back of your baby’s head for at least half of the time that your baby is awake.
There are a few ways to relieve this pressure:
- Don’t feed your baby from the same side every time. If you are breast feeding, you will be doing this naturally. But if you are feeding with a bottle, alternate the side that you feed from.
- Use a carry sling to carry your baby – these are good as they free the back of your baby’s head from any pressure .
- Take your baby out of their car seat/buggy when you’re not travelling. It’s easy to carry your baby in a car seat but this has started to be called ‘Container Baby Syndrome’. Its a relatively new term used in paediatrics to describe a baby that spends a majority of her time in some sort of enclosed space. These ‘containers’ can include car seats, bouncy swings, vibrating chairs, bumbo seats or other devices that ‘contain’ a baby’s movement.
- Don’t place your baby flat on their back, on a firm surface in a play gym.
- When sitting, don’t let your baby sit back against you. This is a really easy position and doesn’t encourage core strength to develop in the trunk or neck. Instead, sit your baby across your leg like a riding horse, slightly leaning forward with your arms around the body.
- When sitting or feeding, don’t use an infant carrier, car seat, or buggy insert too much. There are several seats on the market that allow infants over four months of age to sit without pressure to the back of the head.
- If your baby has a tight neck or torticollis, which means that one of the side neck muscles is much tighter than the other, we recommend that you see a physiotherapist or osteopath as soon as you notice it. Although most infants with torticollis have a simple tight muscle, there are some causes of the condition where you should seek medical attention before working on stretches to improve the range of motion in the neck. Carrying your baby ‘sleeping tiger’ will help to improve the range of motion on the side.
Place your baby on their tummy to play whilst they are awake and you are with them. This is a great exercise as they learn how to prop their arms and helps to develop the spinal extensors and hips. If your baby struggles, try rolling up a towel and placing it under their chest to offer them additional support.
Some parents struggle with tummy time when their baby doesn’t like to go onto their tummy, crying when they are. If this is the case, we suggest starting a little more gently using the following techniques:
- Cross your knees and lie your baby across them with their arms propping on your crossed knee and your hand supporting under the bottom.
- Carry your baby face down along your forearm like a sleeping tiger. Or, carry your baby facing out rather than cradled in your arm. Use a papoose or carrying sling.
These simple things add up to improving your baby’s strength, as well as their spine and neck control and a reduction in the tendency for a flattening to develop. If you’re not seeing significant improvement by the age of 5 months, cranial remoulding will improve the head shape much more rapidly and a better, fuller improvement can occur.
So, if by the age of four or five months you are not seeing any significant improvement, please call us on 0330 100 1800 to make an appointment for a free no-obligation assessment.