Flat Head Syndrome, also known as positional or deformational plagiocephaly and brachycephaly, can be a serious issue. The conditions can impact your child’s appearance, and may also interfere with psychological and motor skills development. If you follow your doctor’s advice and place your child to sleep on their backs – the safest position for sleep in order to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) – your child could develop flat spots on the head. Recent studies have shown that nearly 50% of babies develop this issue to some extent. It’s a Catch-22. In this article, we’ll explore strategies that you can use to prevent Flat Head Syndrome without endangering your little one, or increasing his or her risk of SIDS.
How can you keep your baby safe from SIDS, without causing flat spots? The answer is that you can’t always avoid flat spots, but there are things you can do to reduce the risk.
Make sure that your child doesn’t always sleep facing the same direction. Changing head position can prevent recurrent pressure from causing flat spots. Infant skull bones are very flexible, so make sure to monitor your wee one’s head position in all devices, including car seats, infant carriers, strollers, bassinets, and any other device that comes into contact with their skull. Alternate positions while feeding and changing your baby as well.
Tummy time is another excellent strategy that you can use to prevent positional cephalic disorders. It is also critical for all babies to encourage proper development. Your child will learn to lift their head on their own, rotate it, begin to roll, crawl, and eventually sit as a result of tummy time. By spending time with them on their tummies, you are helping to strengthen the muscles they need to begin to move independently – those in the neck and back. These muscles and the increased mobility of your child result in less time spent on their backs, and a more normal skull shape. Babies like to be in motion. The change in perspective is also usually appreciated, and the sooner that you begin, the more your little one will appreciate tummy time. Babies who start tummy time late tend to complain more about the exercise than those who begin the practice early in life.
Pillows, props, and products
Nursing pillows and infant seats that encourage your child to support himself or herself can also help to prevent flat head syndrome. Using a front pack carrier or a sling instead of a stroller is another great strategy. The primary cause of flat head syndrome is excess time spent with pressure on the bones of the skull. Any activity you perform that reduces time spent laying against a surface will help prevent flat head syndrome.
A growing trend for nighttime is the use of special sleep devices, including pillows and sleep sacks, to prevent positional cephalic disorders. By preventing skull deformation that results from excess pressure on one particular part of the cranium, or applying pressure to most of the skull simultaneously, the devices prevent the formation of flat spots. The head may be placed into a bowl shaped indent, or memory foam may be used for the same effect. Using these devices isn’t without risk. Make sure that you pick a design that is made for infants 0-6 months of age, and is safe for sleep. The material should be breathable, and the risk of suffocation should be eliminated or prevented by the devices design.
Do not, under any circumstances, place your child to sleep on their side or stomach to prevent flat head syndrome. These positions have been proven to increase the risk of SIDS. Flat head syndrome can be preventable, especially following the advice in this article, and the risks involved with side or back sleeping are too high to pay for a nicely shaped noggin.