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Baby Flat Head

When should I be concerned about my Baby’s Flat Head?

If you notice at birth that your baby has a misshapen head it means that they have undergone an enormous amount of strain and pressure through their skull either during in-utero development or during the birth process. If left untreated this may potentially progress into more severe plagiocephaly or brachycephaly. Therefore, if you notice any flat head, asymmetrical head shape or a generally misshapen head at birth it is recommended to get your baby checked as soon as possible as early intervention will have greater long term results.  

If your baby seemingly had a perfect head shape at birth and then suddenly you notice it is flat on one side, flat at the back of the head, or just a misshapen head shape it is best to get it checked. This may be positional plagiocephaly and indicates that for some reason your baby has been putting more pressure on that side or part of their head. This may be due to an underlying neck issue such as torticollis or could be from birth trauma but has only become more obvious due to growth and sustained pressure on the baby’s head from laying on their back for long periods of time. 

Studies have shown that moderate to severe plagiocephaly if left unaddressed can result in long term issues such as developmental delays, cognitive issues and long term anatomical effects such as jaw and neck issues. Therefore, it is always best if you notice anything unusual about your baby’s head shape to get it assessed by a professional.

Does a Baby’s Flat Head correct itself?

With the right help such as treatment, advice and home exercises plagiocephaly can correct itself. Left untreated there is the potential that flat head may lead into more severe plagiocephaly and ultimately require helmet therapy to correct it. Some older children and adults that had no intervention as babies still have flat or misshapen heads therefore we can say that flat head definitely does not always correct itself.

How do I fix my Baby’s Flat Head?

Seek advice from a professional such as a pediatric osteopath or physiotherapist. As well as doing hands on treatment to help the baby’s head shape they will also be able to provide advice and exercises for you to do at home to help. Examples of things to do at home are head repositioning, massage and stretching for underlying neck or body tension, advice on the best plagiocephaly pillows, and neck strengthening exercises. Every baby and every case is different therefore we recommend always seeking advice from a professional rather than just googling generic answers.

Why is it bad for Babies to have a Flat Head?

Contrary to popular beliefs, a flat head is not just an aesthetic issue. Studies have linked moderate and severe plagiocephaly and brachycephaly to developmental delays and cognitive issues with skills such as verbal abilities, spatial ability, memory and processing. There can also be long term musculoskeletal issues that may carry forward into adulthood such as neck issues, jaw pain and asymmetries and headaches.

Types of Flat Head in Babies

Plagiocephaly

Plagiocephaly refers to an asymmetry in a baby’s head shape. When the flat head is more on one side of a baby’s head it is often associated with torticollis or other neck issues and can lead to not just flattening on that side but also a bulging out on the opposite side. If this progresses we often see the asymmetry coming into the face as well with differences in the forehead shape, cheek bone positioning, ear positioning and jaw asymmetry.

Brachycephaly

Brachycephaly head shape describes a short and wide head shape that may occur when there is too much pressure centrally on the back of the baby’s head. This may be due to babies spending too much time in carseats, bouncers or other baby devices that put pressure on the back of their head. It could also occur if you have a very big or heavy baby that doesn’t move much yet and therefore lay on their back for long periods of time.

Scaphocephaly

Scaphocephaly refers to a long and narrow head shape. This is most likely to occur from in-utero positioning during development. Scaphocephaly is often seen in breech babies where they have had sustained pressure from the uterus on the top of their head for an extended period of time during their growth and development.

How long does Plagiocephaly take to correct?

The length of time for plagiocephaly to correct depends on the severity of the misshapen head, the dedication of the parents to follow the advice given and the age of the child. The earlier intervention and prevention occurs the quicker and more effective the correction will be. By nine months of age the cranial bones and joint lines between them start to harden more, therefore correction after this time is still possible but can be much slower. The younger the baby, the softer the bones and therefore the more effective the change.

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