A newborn baby’s skull isn’t hard and set firmly in place the way an adult’s is. Its malleability makes it easier for it to be born. However, that same malleability can lead to positional plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome. Babies may develop flat head syndrome if they habitually lie with their heads turned to the same side while sleeping or resting.
Naturally, most infants spend a good deal of their time lying down or otherwise resting their heads against another surface (as with a baby car seat or a bouncer), giving flat spots a chance to develop. Premature babies may develop flat areas more easily, and babies from multiple births may even be born with them. Here are some tips for correcting flat head syndrome if you do notice your baby developing it.
1. Hold your baby as often as possible.
Reducing the amount of time your baby spends lying alone in a crib, sitting in a car seat, or similar can give flat head syndrome a chance to correct itself and prevent it from getting worse. Hold your baby, and play with him often. If you’ve been out for a ride or a walk and your baby fell asleep, take him out of his stroller or car seat when you get home instead of leaving him to nap there.
2. Become more aware of your baby’s sleeping position.
Be mindful of how you lay your baby down in his crib when it’s time for him to go to sleep, and deliberately vary the positions you choose. It also helps to purposefully place your baby with his head facing away from the door to his room so he’ll be encouraged to turn his head if he wants to see out.
If your baby has already developed a pronounced flat spot, lay him down with that spot facing up instead of down. You can also manually move his head from one side to the other as he sleeps.
3. Ask your doctor about physical therapy.
Babies with flat head syndrome often also develop a condition called torticollis, a twisting of the neck that can eventually cause the head to sit, turn, or tilt at strange angles. For this reason, you should talk to your pediatrician about possible physical therapy if you’ve noticed your baby developing a flat spot.
A physical therapist may work with your baby to help him stretch his muscles and balance out a developing head tilt. You’ll also be advised on exercises you can do with him at home to maximize the results.
4. Consider a baby helmet for flat head syndrome.
There are also helmets available to treat flat head syndrome. Such helmets are designed to fit your baby loosely where his head is flat but more tightly where it’s round. This helps encourage the head to even out as your baby grows and his head continues the hardening process.
Although flat spots are common in babies and aren’t painful, it’s essential to treat them promptly and correctly. Talk to your doctor about which options might be best for you and your baby.