To minimise the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDs), parents are strongly advised that it is extremely important to place their babies on their back to sleep. This very successful policy has hugely reduced the numbers of babies who have died in early infancy. However, due to the softness of a baby’s skull during their first months, some babies can develop a flattening on their head and it has been found that some babies who are lying for too long in one position can develop a flattened head shape. This post will guide you through some of the things that you can do to minimise or prevent a head shape flattening.
Something as simple as repositioning your baby can make the world of difference in preventing flat head syndrome. Babies that spend a lot of time with pressure on one side or at the back of their head are more susceptible to developing a flattening. Little ones should always be placed on their back to sleep, but you can encourage them to sleep on different sides of their head. Following our Repositioning Guide, you can implement various methods that can help to prevent a flat head. For example, changing the position of their toys above the cot to encourage them to rest their head on different sides whilst on their back. Tummy time is also a significant repositioning technique that is highly recommended by us. As a prevention method, repositioning can be extremely effective and is advocated by the NHS.
There are many pillows that are designed to reduce the risk of babies developing a flat head. However, there are a number of factors to consider before purchasing one of these pillows. Parents should be aware that the NHS and other credited sources advise parents to ensure that babies sleep on their back, on a flat surface, without pillows. A baby’s face shouldn’t be pressed up against an object as this in turn can increase the risk of SIDs. Because of this, pillows and cot bumpers raise safety concerns. Parents often say that their baby wriggles away from the shaping in the pillow, reducing the effectiveness.
Another product on the market targeted at reducing flat head, are curved or pre-shaped mattresses. These mattresses are marketed as encouraging babies to move their head more freely so they no longer sleep on one side of their head. Such mattresses are useful in the first few months of life but as the baby get older and comes to the point where they can move or turn over themselves they become less useful. Our experience is that if a baby has already developed a flattening, they are not fully successful in improving a flattened head shape especially when the infant is over 4 to 5 months of age when repositioning becomes much less effective.
There are some repositioning beanies on the market which are designed to aid repositioning. They feature a supporting roll that influences the position that a baby rests their head. The idea is to alternate the position of this support roll to encourage a healthy movement of the head, and prevent the baby from sleeping on one side of their head. Although these are designed and sold to reduce the incidence of head shape deformity, we find if a baby has a torticollis, they will be unable to gain enough head and neck movement to move away from the flattened area. In such cases physiotherapy or osteopathy will help as simple repositioning techniques can not be enough.
Despite the prevention methods available, severe Plagiocephaly will require further treatment to correct a head shape deformity. If repositioning techniques have failed, we assess the severity of a baby’s flattening and whether it requires a cranial helmet to correct it. These helmets are an advanced cranial remoulding treatment and bring about the gentle correction of a head shape in a pain-free and effective approach. Our helmet, the TiMband, is custom-made for each baby and their head shape. We have helped so many families to overcome Flat Head Syndrome, and have a few parents’ stories to take you through their journey.
There are various ways to prevent flat head in babies, but we truly believe in the effectiveness of repositioning techniques and tummy time. If done right, babies won’t spend a prolonged amount of time on one side of their head. However, for some babies, prevention techniques aren’t enough and they still develop a flat head. For those that do develop flat head syndrome, we recommend booking a free, no-obligation appointment at one of our clinics. Our clinicians will advise you on whether your little one can be treated with a cranial helmet.
If you would like any additional advice or information, contact us and we will be happy to help.