Flat Head Syndrome: What parents need to know about preventing it

Protect your precious newborn from developing flat head syndrome by remembering these important tips...

After babies pass through the birth canal, it's natural for their heads to appear pointy or long during the first days of life. It will take time for parts of their skull to move, fuse together, and settle into a shape, while maintaining its softness to accommodate your baby's growing brain. But if a baby's head appears to be misshapen for weeks after birth, then this may be a sign that they've developed flat head syndrome, or what is also known as plagiocephaly.

Plagiocephaly usually manifests as flat spots on any part of the head, which can be the result of prolonged pressure after lying down in a certain position for too long. It could also be attributed to neck muscle problems. Even before they are born, babies can develop this syndrome, if their skulls are subjected to too much pressure from their mother's pelvis or if they are born with a twin.

Premature babies, whose skulls are softer than babies born full term, are more at risk of developing flattened heads. Another reason is that they may spend too much time lying down, having to spend months in a NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) or nursery.

But worry not, this condition doesn't harm or hinder your baby's growing brain! It does however, threaten the appearance of your baby's head, which could have negative socioemotional effects later on in life.

How can parents prevent flat head syndrome in newborns?

The good news is that flat head syndrome doesn't require surgery. Minor flat spots can resolve on their own, but make sure to consult your doctor regarding the severity of your baby's case.

Here's how it can be prevented and treated.

Change your baby's head position when asleep

Remember to place your baby on her back while sleeping and to keep in mind sleep safety guidelines! To avoid flat head syndrome, make sure to reposition your baby's head from side to side as they sleep. Remember to keep the round part of their head touching the mattress. Avoid using pillows to keep you baby in a certain position, as this may increase the risk of choking or aspiration.

Alternate where you place them down in the crib

If you're right handed, then you usually carry your baby with the left and then lay them down in their crib using your right hand. Once you leave them in their crib, babies tend to turn to look to the other side, causing more pressure on a particular side. So make sure you don't lay them down in the same direction every time you leave them to sleep.

Carry your baby more often

Holding your baby more lessens the time they have to spend on their backs or pressing their heads onto a flat surface, like strollers, or car seats. Carrying them often lessens pressure on their heads, plus: it also increases bonding between you two!

Increase "tummy time"

Having guided tummy time while your baby is awake can help prevent flattened heads. It also helps improve neck muscle strength and encourages your baby to begin exploring how to use the upper body muscles needed for crawling or sitting.

Adjust your feeding position

For breastfeeding mums, it would help to feed using the football hold to reduce pressure on the side of the head that's usually pressed against a flat surface in other feeding positions. If your baby is bottle fed, practice switching arms used to hold them to lessen pressure.

Visit a physiotherapist to diagnose muscle problems

As previously stated, flat head syndrome can be traced to poor neck muscle strength. To know for sure and to address other issues and concerns you have, it's best to visit a specialist!

We hope these tips help. Let us know what you thought of this article in the comments below!

*Republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines

sources: Kid's Health, The Bub Hub, Orthopaedia.com, American Occupational Therapy Association

READ: Not enough tummy time could hinder your child’s physical development