Part 1 what it is and how to recognise it
Plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) is lack of symmetry in a baby’s head shape. It might be most noticeable when looking at the baby’s head from above. The back of the head can appear to be flat on one side or both. Plagiocephaly or Flat Head Syndrome, is a common condition in babies
There are three forms of plagiocephaly:
Positional plagiocephaly (the most common form) develops when a baby spends too much time lying on his or her back, resulting in a misshaped head. Babies are vulnerable because their skull is soft and pliable when they’re born.
Craniosynostosis, a birth defect in which the joints between the bones of the skull close early. This may not be apparent at birth, but as soon as the baby starts growing it will show. It is important to differentiate between plagiocephaly and craniosynostosis. Babies born with craniosynostosis need surgery to allow their brain to grow properly.
And more rarely primary plagiocephally . Babies develop primary plagiocephally when movement in the uterus is constricted for some reason – because their mother is carrying more than one baby, breech babies who get wedged under their mother’s ribs. Primary plagiocephally can also occur during long and difficult labours where baby gets stuck and needs venteuse, foreceps or cesarian.
Normally, any distortion and asymmetry in the baby’s head at birth often resolves itself within the first few days. But babies will often favour lying on its side as a result of a tiny twist or restriction of one of the bones at the base of the skull or the top of the neck. As babies spend most of their time on their backs, the soft bones of the skull start to flatten and distort.
Are there any signs that I should look out for that may warn me that my newborn is more vulnerable to develop this condition? Have a look at your baby and ask yourself the following questions.
- Is my baby tending to turn their head to one side more than the other? Trust your judgement.
- When my baby is lying down, do they look slightly “banana shaped”, to one side rather than lying straight?
- Does my baby find it more difficult to breastfeed from one side?
- Does one side of the back of my baby’s head appear flatter? Even a little bit? Does one of my baby’s ears appear more forward?
- Does one side of my baby’s forehead appear more prominent?
- Does one of my baby’s eyes look larger or more prominent?
Part 2: What you can do to help your baby if it has a flat head
- Use toys or keys to encourage regular turning of the neck when the baby is on their back by getting them to look both ways.
- Always alternate sides when you put your baby down
- Prolonged time in a car seat is not helpful! Take baby out of car seat when at home.
- Place rolled muslin on the side baby prefers. gently turn head to opposite side. the Muslim will Make it less comfortable to turn to their preferred side, encouraging them to turn to opposite side with toys and visual stimuli.
- Allow supervised tummy time while your baby is awake.
If you have been following repositioning advice, and encouraging your baby to spend time on it’s tummy, and you think his or her positional plagiocephaly is getting worse, you should consult your GP. An Osteopath, (who must specialise in babies), will also be able to give you advice about any next steps.
If you feel your baby’s head is not growing, if there are any ridges on your baby’s head, or if there is some delay with his or her development, consult your GP. Nobody minds helping to answer the questions you have!
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