When your baby arrives, there are a lot of things you’re now faced with protecting them from. The world can suddenly seem like a very scary place and with so many different illnesses and conditions to worry about, it can become overwhelming trying to protect them from everything.
While you can’t prevent all illnesses, one condition you can work on preventing is what’s referred to as “flat head”. Since 1992, physicians have experienced an increase in the number of babies experiencing neck and head issues. So, how can you prevent your baby from developing a flat head and what exactly is it? Below, you’ll discover everything you need to know.
What Is Flat Head Syndrome?
Medically referred to as Plagiocephaly, flat head syndrome is a condition which causes a flat spot to develop on baby’s head. There are slightly different types of the condition, but the most common is positional Plagiocephaly, which occurs due to consistent pressure on one part of the head.
Most of the time, positional Plagiocephaly develops after baby is born. If baby sleeps on their back for example, the pressure placed onto the skull where it meets the mattress, can leave a flat spot. Baby’s skulls are soft and pliable after they are born, so consistent pressure onto the area can cause the skull to develop with a permanent soft spot.
Occasionally, positional Plagiocephaly can also occur before birth. If baby’s movement is limited within the uterus, or if baby is born in breach position, they may end up with a flat spot.
What Causes The Condition?
The majority of babies who develop a flat spot, do so due to their sleeping position. If baby spends hours in one position, the head can start to flatten out wherever pressure is placed onto the skull. If you regularly place baby into a device where they are laid down for most of the day, such as a car seat or carrier, it can also lead to issues with flat spots.
Premature babies are also more likely to develop soft spots. This is because their skulls are even softer than those who were born on time. As they are typically really fragile after birth, premature babies also aren’t moved as frequently. So, the likelihood of them developing a flat head is significantly increased.
Can You Prevent It?
It is possible to prevent flat head syndrome in babies. However, you can only prevent the positional form of the condition. There isn’t much you can do about the potential risks of baby developing a flat head in the womb. It is only once they are born that you can work on reducing the risk of them developing the condition.
Ensuring baby doesn’t spend too much time on their backs is one of the best tips you can follow. Tummy time can really help with this. Not only will it reduce the risk of flat head syndrome, but tummy time is also great for building up babies’ shoulder and neck muscles. Ideally, you’ll want to aim for around 60 minutes tummy time each day, split down into shorter sessions.
Once your little one reaches two months of age, they’ll be able see things much more clearly. This is when you should start to move around more. As you take baby from room to room, they will start to look at objects from a variety of angles. This helps to build up their neck muscles and acts as a gentle form of physical therapy.
You’ll also want to avoid taking baby on long road trips. When they are placed into a car seat, their head and neck remain in the same position throughout the entire journey. So, while the odd long road trip shouldn’t cause an issue, too many and you could start to see baby developing a flat spot.
Although it may be tempting to stop baby lying on their back while they sleep, it’s important not to switch their position. Research has shown that baby’s who sleep on their sides or fronts, are at a much higher risk of developing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). So, the risk of developing a flat spot is nothing compared to SIDS. You can change the position of their neck while sleeping, but always ensure they are still sleeping on their backs.
You can try placing baby at different ends of the crib too. One day, place them at the head of the crib, then the next day place them at the foot of the crib. This simple change in position gives baby a different view of the room. So, they will spend more time looking around, moving the head more than they would if they were constantly in the same sleeping position.
Finally, you can hold baby in an upright position frequently throughout the day. This will get them off their backs and help the neck and shoulder muscles to move around more freely. If you struggle to hold baby for long periods, you could always invest in a front carrier. These are carriers which basically keep baby in an upright position, strapped to the front of your body.
Overall, flat head syndrome can be a worry. However, the above are some of the best ways to prevent it. If baby does develop a flat spot, treatments are available. Make sure you talk to your doctor or pediatrician if you are worried and they will be able to provide the best advice on how to prevent, as well as treat the condition.