If your baby has a flat head, also called flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly, it will usually go back to normal as they grow and start to sit up on their own.
If you have concerns about your baby’s misshapen head, speak to your doctor. They can suggest physical exercises and positioning techniques that can help resolve the condition.
What causes flat head syndrome?
Up to 4 months of age, a baby’s skull is soft and moldable. If they are left on their back for long periods of time, they may develop a flat spot on one side of the head or the whole back side of the head.
Sometimes, your baby may develop a flat head either due to problems when they were in your womb or after their birth:
- Tight space in the uterus: A baby may be born with flat head syndrome due to tight space in the uterus, which occurs especially in twin or multiple pregnancies.
- Muscular torticollis: This is a congenital condition in which one or more neck muscles are very tight and keep the baby's head in a particular position.
- Premature birth: Premature babies have softer skulls and often develop flat heads when they are hospitalized on respirators with their heads in the same position.
- Back sleeping: To reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, parents often put their babies on their backs to sleep. Sleeping on their backs without changing positions can lead to plagiocephaly.
What are treatments for flat head syndrome?
Treatment of flat head syndrome depends on the symptoms, age, general health of your child, and severity of the condition:
- Physical therapy: Physical therapists can advise exercises and stretches that may help lengthen and straighten your baby's neck muscles.
- Helmet: Your doctor may suggest a helmet for your baby. This helmet fits loosely in the flat area and tightly at the round area, helping the flat area grow.
How to prevent flat head syndrome
Repositioning your baby can help prevent flat head syndrome and strengthen your baby’s neck muscles. However, this strategy is most effective when your baby is under 4 months. Here is what you need to do:
- Change your baby's sleeping position often: Babies turn toward light and activity, so alternately change the position of your baby's head at the top and the bottom of their crib every night.
- Hold your baby often: Change the position of your baby's head when feeding. Switch your hands from time to time when holding your baby.
- Give them tummy time: Put your baby on their tummy only under your supervision. Make sure that you and your baby both are awake during tummy time.
- Encourage your baby to turn: When your baby is playing in their crib, encourage them to turn their head to the other side with the help of a toy.
Safe Sleeping May Cause Flat Heads for Babies. <https://www.webmd.com/parenting/baby/news/20000920/safe-sleeping-may-cause-flat-heads-for-babies#3>.
Deformational Plagiocephaly. <https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/deformational-plagiocephaly>.
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