Safe sleeping practices for babies mean that they need to sleep on their backs. Younger babies won’t roll over off their back, so they have pressure on the head the entire time they’re sleeping. Some babies, particularly premature babies, may suffer from flat head syndrome.
Formally known as positional plagiocephaly, flat head syndrome can become permanent if it isn’t taken care of while the child is still a baby. While parents might be tempted to switch up their baby’s sleeping position, this isn’t advisable because sleeping in another position increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
What are the Risk Factors for Flat Head Syndrome?
Any baby can suffer from flat head syndrome; however, some babies are more likely to be diagnosed with this condition. These risk factors include:
- Baby whose birth involved a vacuum or forceps
- A first-born child
- Baby is diagnosed with torticollis
- Premature babies
Babies who spend considerable time in a car seat may also develop this condition. It’s best to give them a break from the seat and try not to let them sleep in the car seat for safety purposes.
What Signs Should Parents Look For?
Most babies aren’t born with a flat spot on the head, but parents might notice the baby’s head starts to look flat in the spot that touches the mattress when the baby is asleep. This is typically on the back of the baby’s head but it may also be on one side if the baby favors turning the head to that side.
What’s the Typical Treatment for Flat Head Syndrome?
Many babies who have flat head syndrome will need to wear a special baby helmet. This helps to shape the baby’s head because the helmet is adjusted as the baby grows. It often takes three to six months for the treatment. Only licensed healthcare providers can prescribe a special helmet for the baby.
What Else Might Help?
Reducing the time the baby is on their back may help to prevent this condition. Parents can watch the baby have tummy time. Spending time holding your baby may help since you can support the head in different ways, so the same spots aren’t always under pressure.
Parents who think that their child is suffering from flat head syndrome should discuss the situation with the pediatrician. A multifaceted approach to helping the child is often advisable. This may include using a special helmet, along with special pillows that help to shape the head.