Some babies develop a flat part of their skull after they are born. This is called plagiocephaly. Because and infants skull has to grow so rapidly the various bones that make up the skull are not sealed together early on. This makes them more mobile so if your child spends too much time with pressure on one part of their head, they can develop a flat spot. This has been a rising trend since the 1990’s.
There are many reasons your child could develop this flat spot. The main non medical reason for the increase in cases of ‘flat head syndrome’ can be linked to the rise of the Back To Sleep campaign to prevent SIDS. When babies stopped sleeping on their bellies they began spending more time on their back and less time on their tummies.
Unfortunately, technology has improved as well and new and improved gadgets have come out to make parents lives easier such as the 3 in 1 stroller, carrier and car seats and the bouncy chairs to name a few. These types of equipment also encourage the baby to be on their back and continue to place pressure on the child’s skull.
The easiest way for a parent to prevent their child from getting a flat head is to make sure they are getting plenty of tummy time.
Another reason for your child to develop a flat spot is if your child has a condition called torticollis where they prefer to look to one side only and it is harder to look to the other side, they may be spending too much time lying on one spot of their skull. Talk to your doctor or your physical therapist about stretches you can do and ways to position your baby to help them move their head in all directions and to prevent skull deformity.
Another reason may be if your child for some reason has difficulty moving or is sick and unable to move it is important to learn various ways to help them with their positioning to prevent them from developing a flat spot.
Craniosynostosis is a medical condition that can also cause plagiocephaly as a result of the sutures between the bones in the skull closing too early and not allowing the skull mobility that should be there to accommodate for growth and development. This condition can also cause other changes to the skull besides just a flat spot.
If you know your child has a flattened area of their skull talk to your doctor or physical therapist about what to do and it could be as simple as changing their position or encouraging new positions. If it is severe it may be necessary for them to wear a special helmet to help reshape their skull.
The take home message is don’t let your child spend to much time on their back and encourage various positions, especially tummy time.
Download an informational handout on this topic here!