What to expect if your baby needs a helmet

What to Expect ifWhat to expect if your baby needs a helmet

Making the decision to move forward with a helmet to treat baby flat head syndrome can be a difficult experience for many parents.  You may be apprehensive about how your baby will accept the helmet, and concerned that your baby will be uncomfortable.  I definitely was!

If your child does need a helmet, rest assured that in the vast majority of cases it will be a very easy transition for your baby.  Whatever manufacturer of helmet you choose, there will be a gradual transition period in order to get your baby used to the new helmet.  Each day your baby will wear the helmet for a little more time than the day before.  Most babies do not mind the helmets at all!  It’s probably more difficult for the parent to accept than the baby.  Babies are so adaptable, and most do not experience any discomfort at all, and if they do it is minor and short-lived.  My son adjusted extremely well to his helmet, despite all my fears.

Fitting the Helmet

Fitting the helmet is a painless process, but it can take some time so it’s best to bring along some favorite toys to distract your baby.  It does take a while for the orthotist to get the fit adjusted just right, but the fitting procedure is not painful at all for the child.  The first appointment can last an hour or more.  After that, your baby will go back at regular intervals (normally every 1-2 weeks) to have the helmet checked and re-fitted, but those appointments are usually much shorter.

After the initial break in period, the baby will normally wear the helmet about 23 out of 24 hours each day.  You will find that after a little bit of time, you will hardly even notice that your baby is wearing the helmet!  And the babies get used to them so quickly, my son accepted the helmet from the start as though it was not even there.

There are a few minor issues that can arise from wearing the helmet, but these are not serious and generally will go away with a little bit of time and care.  The helmet causes no major risk to the baby.  In fact, the helmet can actually be useful in that it keeps your baby’s head protected from the bumps and bruises that babies tend to get as they explore their new world!

Common Concerns and Issues

Skin irritation

This is unusual but if it does occur, your orthotist will help you come up with a plan to make the transition to wearing the helmet more gradual and be sure the helmet fit is correct so that it will not cause issues.

Excessive Sweating

Most babies will sweat more than usual when wearing the helmet.  The good news is that this normally will reduce quite a bit when the baby gets acclimated to helmet, after about a week.  One thing you can do is to dress your baby in lighter clothes while wearing the helmet.

Foul Smell

All that sweat means your baby’s head won’t smell very good!  Be sure to follow the cleaning recommendations provided by your helmet provider.  Normally this involves cleaning the helmet at least once per day with unscented alcohol.  Shampooing your baby’s head daily will help.  Using a scented baby shampoo, if it doesn’t irritate your child, can also help reduce the smell.  Be sure if you do use scented products to rinse the baby’s head well to prevent any irritation.  You may want to clean the helmet an extra time or two a day if the smell is bad, and wipe your baby’s head with a clean damp cloth while you are waiting for the helmet to dry.  Your baby’s head should be very clean when the helmet is replaced.

Trouble Sleeping

Some parents report that their child has trouble napping or sleeping at night with the helmet, but the majority of children do not have any problems at all.  As mentioned above, be sure to dress your baby more lightly so they are not uncomfortable due to being too warm.  Any disruption to the baby’s normal sleep schedule normally is short lived, and within a week or two the baby will be back to normal.


Please share your own experiences with your baby’s transition to wearing a helmet!

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  1. misty larkin says:

    I too have a daughter that is 5 mos old wearing a starband. The problem I am running into is the shampoo I should be using. I was recommended by doctor California baby but have found out that sodium benzoate is in the shampoo. So I leave myself wondering what type of unscented all natural baby shampoo is out there. I heard earth moma is an all natural shampoo so I am going to give it a try. Does anyone else have any suggestions on what type of shampoo I can use?? Thanks Misty

  2. Beverly Haskins Kennedy says:

    Thank you for this most informative information on flat head syndrome. My little granddaughter age 5 months was recently diagnosed and is being fitted for a helmet. Your articles were excellent and even though being retired as a healthcare manager I was not aware of this relatively new problem rising primarily to a large extent from infants sleeping on their backs. I signed up for your newsletter but received a security warning when I went to download your text on tummy time. Is there another way I could get a copy. My son and daughter-in- law I know would benefit from your textbook. The are both older first time parents ages 39 for my son and the mother is 41. Thank you for your assistance. Public and professional health education is essential to making sure the babies grow up to be normal and healthy in every way and get a great start developmentally. My background was in hematology, medical genetics and newborn screening, so I certainly appreciate the need for early and appropriate interventions when necessary.

    • Sarah Davidson says:

      Beverly, thank you so much for your extremely kind comment! I’m so thrilled that you have found some value from my blog. It is amazing how new this condition is, and so many people, even health professionals, do not know much about it.

      I will try to email the tummy time guide directly to your gmail address, please let me know if you do not receive it.

      Thank you!

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