When you signed up to be a parent, something called “flat head syndrome” probably wasn’t on the menu. But if you’ve noticed that there’s a certain issue emerging beneath your beloved child’s hairline, it’s probably already time to take action. Flat heads can form quite easily, and while they’re usually not cause for alarm, they do need to be treated. Let’s take a look at what can happen, so you can find the advice that’s right for you.
What is happening when a baby has a flat head?
A lot of things can cause a flat head; the specific issues may need to be discussed with your pediatrician. Your child’s head may be flattening at the back if they sleep constantly in the same position in their crib. You may see a bit of flattening if they’re always in the same position in either a crib or a car seat. A flat head baby can be caused by neglect, but that’s not always the case; sometimes a baby may just not move enough. Flat head syndrome can also be temporary from birth, but this will usually resolve before you can notice it.
Babies have a soft skull when born. There’s not a lot of room in the birth canal. Their skulls slowly harden over time. If their skulls are being depressed by being in the same position, whether in car seas or a baby carrier, a flat spot or spots can emerge. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn’t generally believe these are significantly harmful, but there can be issues developmentally.
How can you avoid a baby having a flat head?
Like it or not, a baby’s head is malleable. Flat head syndrome or a side flat spot is going to happen if your Abby isn’t being moved around enough. After birth, parents should monitor how their child is sleeping. It should be normal for their child to toss and turn and move around somewhat to different sites.
At the age of 14, the skull and its plates start to close a bit, so kids may not have as malleable a skull, and a flat head may become permanent. There are many people who have flat heads now who had them when they were babies. Their skull is flat, but otherwise, the plagiocephaly doesn’t cause any major issues in their lives.
Read: when can a baby use a pillow.
Does a flat head correct itself?
As mentioned, a baby’s head shape is squishy because it has to go through the birth canal. Once in the crib, it will start to harden. If your baby is sleeping frequently on the back or the side, the skull may start to deform. An infant who is very young with a flat head may very well have their skull even out over time if they start moving around. In most cases, it’s advised to get your baby’s head checked for flat spots at the doctor.
Babies who just have flat head syndrome or a flat spot shouldn’t experience undue issues according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. But it could also be indicative of another more serious issue if your baby isn’t moving as they should.
When should you go to a doctor for a flat head?
Ideally, flat head syndrome should be treated before seven months of age, as this is when the skull is still malleable. Whether the issue is to the side or the back, a helmet can be fitted over the head and forehead to “train” the skull. This helmet is specially designed so as not to put any pressure on the child’s brain or ears. Regardless of how your baby sleeps in their crib, their skull will be gently guided into the right shape. This shape is going to become permanent as the skull closes up.
What side effects can having a flat head have?
Many worry about brain damage and other serious problems with a flat head. A flat head alone doesn’t generally cause problems, though it does correlate with developmental delays, and still bears treatment if only for cosmetic purposes. A baby’s head being flat could indicate more serious issues. The baby could be in the crib too much, or positioned so they are always on their back. Flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly could be happening because of other issues, such as pain when the child moves their skull from side to side. Regardless, the spots shouldn’t be ignored because they could indicate problems with the head and neck that require care.
Could a flat head be a symptom of something else?
A flathead may require treatment because the head position could indicate another issue, such as stiff neck muscles. An infant may not be moving because they are lethargic. Flat head syndrome could be the result and might still bear treatment. Flat heads can also come along with other issues such as bracycephaly. A pediatrician should be called to monitor the child, inspect their head and face, and see if there is anything about the flat spot or site that indicates other issues. For instance, positional plagiocephaly and a child not moving their neck could be to blame.
With positional plagiocephaly, something like a helmet can still help the spots, but the skull alone won’t be the problem. And it will be important for children to get help before the age of 12 to 14 months or so, when the issues with the baby’s head (and other problems) could become more serious.
It’s unclear whether flat heads are really a problem in and of themselves, and it’s very possible that more children have flat heads because parents are conscientiously placing them on their backs to avoid sudden infant death syndrome. Sleeping on backs is advised and safe, so flat heads may just need to be treated with helmets.
Do you need to go to a specialist to treat a flat head?
Everyone’s head shape and size is unique, especially children. A parent shouldn’t try to treat head shape or plagiocephaly on their own, whether it’s to the back, side, or anywhere else. Rather, babies will go to a specialist who will often create a helmet. The helmet won’t address the cause of the flat head, but it might resolve the problem.
Will a helmet help a child with a flat head?
Babies who wear a helmet will be able to round out their head, whether the issues are to the back or to the side. The helmet must be worn for the majority of the day but will ensure that the skull, when it firms, is in the right place. In many ways a helmet is like a cast for the head. It’s small and lightweight and made by a professional.
What a helmet won’t do is address causes for the flat head, such as neck muscles being stiff or atrophied. This is something that may need more than a helmet to resolve.
How do you get a flat head helmet for your baby?
If you feel your baby’s head needs a flat head helmet, whether it’s due to position or neck muscles, you can get a helmet that will slip around the back, sides, and front. Babies can easily wear these helmets nearly all the time to correct their plagiocephaly with minimal side effects. To get one, you will see a specialist, who will complete thorough measurements for your baby. Usually, you will want to bring them in between the age of 4 months and 14 months if you suspect your baby has issues with their head or neck.
See also Popular baby pillows for 2021.
It’s important to investigate the reasons for a flat head in infants. According to Mayo Clinic, it’s not unusual to have abnormalities or asymmetry in your child’s head, but it’s still a good idea to have a pediatrician look at it to make sure that everything is fine and that you don’t need any treatments or changes. For most babies with a flat head, a helmet might be an alternative.
Disclaimer: The content on this site is for informational or educational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any condition, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultations with healthcare professionals. Always consult with your medical professional for diagnose and treatment recommendations before making a decision.