Repositioning Techniques for Flat Head Syndrome in Babies
If you have noticed that your baby is developing a flat spot on his or her head, also known as flat head syndrome, you should know this is very common these days and you should not blame yourself or feel guilty. Some children just seem to be particularly susceptible to this. The medical terms for this condition are plagiocephaly (unilateral flattening) and brachycephaly (bilateral flattening). Flat spots can normally be corrected as long as you take the appropriate measures. It’s always best to start as early as possible, or as soon as you notice there is a problem. This article will discuss the various repositioning strategies to prevent flat heads in babies that can help minimize this condition. Some of the strategies may seem a little difficult at first, but after you have persevered the first few times they will become easier. The most important thing is to be consistent and start early to get the best results. Repositioning is most effective during the first three to four months of age, and becomes less effective as the baby grows older.
The flattened part of the head occurs when some part of your baby’s head consistently comes into contact with a surface, which causes pressure in the same area. Infant heads are soft and malleable. This can be anything from the crib or cot mattress to a car seat or bouncer. The longer the head is in contact with the surface, the more chance there is for the head to be flattened in that place as babies will generally prefer one side more than the other, particularly if they have another related condition such as torticollis.
Four Strategies for Repositioning
1. Take Advantage of Gravity
The principle behind this method is that the head will always grow in the direction where there is least resistance. This technique is used with your baby when you are laying them down to rest. You will put them in a position on their side. You want the area that has the flat spot to be nearest the mattress but not making contact with the mattress in any way. Gravity then encourages the head to grow in a downward direction and fill out the flat spot. This can be a difficult to method to achieve, especially when they get a little older and start to move around more. The gravity method can be slow to progress, and needs to be done in consultation with your health care practitioner so you do not increase your baby’s risk of SIDS.
2. No Pressure
This is a simple technique however it can be very difficult to do all of the time. The idea is that you ensure there is no pressure on any part of the baby’s head at any time. It is just about impossible to ensure your baby’s head does not touch a solid surface at any point during the day. To be effective, though, you should try to do this as many hours of the day as you are able.
There are many ways to do this. For example, you can carry your baby in a sling, or lay them on their tummy across your knees or on a baby mat and this will take the pressure off the head. When your infant is old enough, you can use an infant seat or activity center.
It isn’t always possible to keep the pressure off the head, such as when your baby is in a car seat, which is why you can buy specially made devices that cushion your baby’s head around the neck area. This will help to hold the head away from the surface, allowing the head the freedom to start to re-shape itself. Obviously, the more you use these methods the quicker you will see results.
3. Reduced Pressure
This is a variation of the No Pressure technique. The idea is just to use as little pressure as possible on the flat area of the baby’s head. It can be done any time a baby is resting, for example in a car seat or bouncer, or on the changing table during diaper changes. You can use a specially made cushion such as the Boppy Noggin Nest, or you can make your own using a cut piece of memory foam. Be sure not to use any pillows or cushions when your baby is sleeping unless it is done under the guidance of your medical professional.
4. Using Static Pressure
This is quite a difficult plan to implement but many people have had success with it so it is worth mentioning. This applies a very similar principle to wearing a helmet. The goal is to apply pressure to the part of the head that you do NOT want to grow, and relieve the pressure in the area that you want to grow, and therefore fill in the flat spot. So if the flattened area is in the back right quadrant of the head, you would want the pressure to be in the back left quadrant. It is not going to be as effective as a helmet, because a helmet puts pressure equally all around the baby’s head in the areas where growth needs to be restricted, and static pressure can only put pressure on one other area at a time. However because it is a more active technique, it can be very effective. You must be sure to rotate points of contact so that you do not inadvertently cause flattening in another part of the baby’s head. One way to do this is when you are feeding, holding, or carrying your baby, using your arm to create the static pressure. When you are playing with your baby, use toys to encourage the baby to look in the direction that will put the static pressure on the correct area. Once again, please consult your health care practitioner for guidance.
The best approach is to use as many repositioning methods as you can, and use a combination of techniques. The earlier you can start these methods, and the more aggressive you are with ensure the flat spot of your baby’s head does not receive any additional pressure, the more successful you will be. Please note that some babies will respond better to these methods than others. However many who have used these methods, particularly starting from an early age (under four months), have seen improvement. It is most important to be consistent.
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