When infants remain in one position for too long, they can develop Flat Head Syndrome (Plagiocephaly). It is a temporary condition where one side of a baby’s head is flat.
The flat spot can be in the back or on the sides. It is linked to long-term head positioning while the baby is lying flat or leaning up against a rocker, car seat, or swing. Additionally, head misshape can happen in utero and during the birthing process. However, it should not be a cause for alarm. It is an easily treatable visible condition. Here are three ways you can prevent Flat Head Syndrome.
Tummy Time and Repositioning
It is currently advised that parents put their infants to sleep on their backs due to the link with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Research has shown a decrease in the risk of SIDS when children were put to sleep on their backs versus on their stomachs. This repositioning has resulted in prolonged posterior pressure. The infant skull is highly malleable since it has to accommodate growth. Any constant pressure to one area can leave a flat spot. Therefore, it is highly recommended to give your infant plenty of tummy time.
Placing babies on their tummy during the day has many benefits. It removes pressure off the skull, helps develop core muscles, strengthens neck and shoulder muscles, and contributes to overall motor skill development. It can begin as a newborn and should be done throughout the day. Also, repositioning the bed/crib or repositioning the infant in the crib can reduce unilateral preference. An infant may naturally gaze toward a window, an object, or movement. Allowing for equal time on each side can help mitigate the effects of long-term pressure.
Infant Head-Shaping Pillows
Another option is a head shaping pillow. It is an adaptable pressure dispersion pillow. The pillows are typically made out of hypoallergenic memory foam and cotton. They are great for day use when the infant is in a supine position and supervised. Although there are mixed opinions about when to this specialized pillow, it is best to seek your pediatrician’s recommendation regarding the best one to use for your needs.
Helmet therapy is used to reshape the skull. The helmet provides constant gentle pressure to promote the natural growth of the head. It aims to inhibit growth in some areas and encourage flatter areas to grow and reshape. As the infant grows, adjustments are made to the helmet. Helmets are custom-made and are typically meant to be worn at least 23 hours a day for an average of three months. These helmets are prescribed and provided for use under the care of a licensed physician.
Flat Head Syndrome is not life-threatening and does not hurt your baby’s brain development. Although it can resolve on its own, there are things you can do to prevent it from occurring by giving your infant plenty of time in different positions, especially when he or she is awake. Tummy time is highly recommended; however, when that is not giving you the results you desire, talk to your pediatrician for recommendations.
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