Repositioning therapy involves changing your baby’s head position while they sleep, and may also include increased tummy time. In more severe cases, physical therapy may be recommended.
The repositioning method is most effective before your baby is 5 months old, and the younger you start and the more consistent you are, the better. Some children older than 5 months can benefit from repositioning, but this method is not recommended for children older than 1 year. The skull bones rapidly begin fusing together after this point, making the likelihood of repositioning’s success very low.
This method is most effective for mild to moderate cases of flat head syndrome, especially if torticollis is considered a factor.
A relatively new innovation in the treatment of cephalic deformities, specialized pillows and “cradles” are now available. The use of sleep devices is most effective in mild to moderate plagiocephaly. They are not as effective in the treatment of brachycephaly or scaphocephaly.
You can find more information and reviews of the most popular sleep devices here on our Baby Flat Head Syndrome blog.
Helmet Therapy and Banding
Helmet therapy and banding work by placing passive pressure on a baby’s skull to encourage a return to normal growth – the idea is simple. Pressure on the skull created the problem, so counter-pressure should be able to relieve it. The skull is given room to grow freely in areas unaffected by cranial deformation, and as a result, the therapy is very effective at re-creating normal head shape.
There are numerous types of cranial bands and helmets available including KidCap, StarBAND and DOC band. The difference in the therapies is minimal. Each device is tailored to the needs of the individual child, and the devices are adjusted frequently as your baby’s head grows. The average baby using this form of therapy requires 4.5 months of helmet or band use, although severe cases may require nearly a year of treatment and possibly more than one helmet, as the baby’s head may outgrow the helmet before therapy is complete. Babies using helmets or bands typically wear the devices for 21-23 hours per day. Consistency is key to successful treatment, so be sure to follow the guidelines of your therapist.
Before moving to helmet and band therapies, parents are encouraged to try repositioning in combination with physical therapy for at least two months.
Some parents also choose to ‘wait-it-out’ in cases of minor cephalic malformation. According to several recent studies, most minor or mild cephalies do resolve within the first few years of a child’s life. More severe cases may not. Your doctor will be able to explain whether or not your child requires an active treatment plan.