Flat Head Syndrome
As almost every mum leaves the hospital with their new baby, they are given a few key pieces of advice. Some that includes:
- Put baby to sleep on their back
- Make sure you start tummy time soon to strengthen the back, neck and arm muscles!
Do you remember being told that? I do.
I was very careful to put my son to sleep on his back in order to reduce his risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
What I didn’t care for too much was tummy time. My son hated it. When I finally noticed a flat spot appear on his head at 4 months, I was given the advice to increase tummy time, carry him or encourage him to sit up supported. I’m sure that works for some people. It didn’t for us.
And so, we entered into the world of Flat Head Syndrome.
Flat head syndrome is basically a condition in which one part of the baby’s head becomes flattened due to continued pressure on that point, according to NCT. There are 2 main types:
- Brachycephaly – the flattened area is at the back of the head, meaning the head appears wider. It happens when babies lie for long periods on their backs (mostly during sleep).
- Plagiocephaly – this is a flattening on a side of the head, usually because babies have a preference for sleep on one side.
Why does it happen?
It happens because the several plates of bone that make up a baby’s head have yet to fuse together and are still very soft. Thus, the shape can change with continuous pressure.
This can occur in the womb, if there is very little amniotic fluid. It is also more likely to happen to premature babies and those with muscular problems (even just a tightness of neck muscles during delivery). It can of course happen during sleep or in car seats or baby bouncers (i.e. when baby’s head is on a firm surface for prolonged periods of time). There are more serious conditions that can cause this too, such as the skull bones fusing very early, but these are rare.
Of course, sleeping on the back is important – it has halved the number of babies who have died with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Thus, we must focus on techniques during the day to help relieve this issue.
Such techniques include:
- Tummy time at several points during the day
- Alternate the side you hold and feed baby
- Encourage baby to turn their head with a toy, light or even the sound of your voice if they favour turning their head to one side
- Use a sling or front carrier when walking
If you notice your baby developing a flat spot, please discuss your concerns with a health provider. If you want more information and feel that your baby’s head shape is not improving with simple exercises, you might want to have a look at the information provided by the charity Headstart4babies.
For me, I wasn’t so lucky. My son’s head was still grossly deformed, and as a last resort, I had to turn to helmet treatment for him at the age of 1. Though his head shape corrected slightly, he was too old for complete correction and at 4 years old still has a head shape deformity. It means I now spend a lot of money on expensive haircuts to hide it!
Tummy time really is one of the simplest ways to avoid this condition, and it has so many other benefits! That’s why JayceeBaby is so passionate about encouraging tummy time. Our Perfectly Padded Playmat has been designed with just this in mind! If you ever wondered why we are so padded, then this is it! With our thick padding and interactive, brightly coloured images on the face of the mat, we know we are encouraging babies to engage in tummy time and enjoy it!