Plagiocephaly has seen a dramatic spike in the number of babies diagnosed each year over the course of the past twenty-two years. Finding ways to avoid plagiocephaly has become increasingly important. This spike has largely been associating with the “Back to Sleep” campaign, which encouraged parents to put their infants to sleep on their backs, rather than their stomachs. This campaign was highly effective at reducing the rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), with a more than 50 percent reduction in the death rates since the start of the 1994 campaign. An unexpected outcome of this highly successful movement was the rise in plagiocephaly diagnoses. Some studies have shown that the diagnosis has risen by at least 21 percent. Because SIDS is dramatically more dangerous than plagiocephaly, sleeping on the back is important. So many parents ask, what can they do to avoid flat head syndrome but adhering to recommendations on back sleeping?
There are a number of things parents can do to avoid a plagiocephaly diagnosis; these are among the most important:
Using Supervised Tummy Time to Avoid Plagiocephaly
One of the best ways to avoid babies spending too much time on their back is by having them spend time on their belly. While tummy sleeping is not recommended, all childcare experts collectively recommend supervised tummy time. There are many ways you can safely engage your baby in tummy time. Younger babies may have difficulty holding up the weight of their head so a rolled towel or blanket can be placed under their chest to boost them upwards. You can also position baby on your chest so they must lift their head to see your face. Babies love to look at their parents face so this allows both tummy time and bonding. Older babies with stronger neck muscles can be placed on a blanket on the floor and you can encourage them to lift up their head and engage in play.
Using Repositioning to Avoid Plagiocephaly
Another tip that is recommended by doctors and childcare experts is to use repositioning to avoid plagiocephaly. This is a simple technique where you adjust where and how baby lies in their crib, swing or other safe space. By changing the location they lay in and the direction they face their head you can help minimize the potential head flattening. This can even be used to treat mild cases of plagiocephaly in infants under 4-5 months old.
Using Babywearing to Avoid Plagiocephaly
A newer suggestion for avoiding flat head syndrome is babywearing. By carrying baby in a pouch, sling, wrap or carrier you can help make sure that their head is not receiving the pressure that would be applied when laying down. By making sure that your carrier of choice allows baby’s head to be free you can spend hours where baby is safe and supported but not laying on their back.
These are three of the most important ways you can avoid your baby’s head to become flat. They are simple and effective, and ideally should begin as soon as baby comes home from the hospital.