Flat head syndrome is the name given to the condition when part of a baby’s head becomes flattened due to continued pressure on one spot. This happens because babies’ skulls are soft and pliable when they’re born.
You see, babies’ skulls are made up of several plates of bone which are loosely held together. Though the bones will gradually join as they grow older, their skulls are very soft and their shape can be changed by gentle pressure during birth and for the first few months. However, it’s important to note that having a flattened head does not affect a child’s brain growth or cause developmental delays or brain damage.
According to NCT, there are 2 types of flat head syndromes in babies:
- Plagiocephaly – This is a flattening on one side of a baby’s head. Its most common form is ‘positional plagiocephaly’, which happens when a baby’s head develops a flat area due to continued pressure on one side of their head. Babies are most vulnerable because their skull is soft and pliable when they’re born.
- Brachycephaly – This refers to the condition where a baby’s head is disproportionately wide compared to its depth. It can happen when babies lie for long periods on their backs. This causes the whole of the back of their head to flatten, resulting in a much wider and shorter head. Brachycephaly is less common.
The symptoms to flat head syndrome include flat area on back or one side of the head, bulging on one side of the head, one ear more forward than the other, as well as unbalanced look to the face.
How can parents prevent flat head syndrome?
As Michael L. Cunningham, MD, PhD, division chief of Craniofacial Medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital, explains, don’t leave your infant in the same position all the time. “Be aware of positional preferences that baby has so you can rotate them as needed,” he adds. Therefore, you should alternate your baby’s head position every night when he or she is put to sleep in the crib.
Besides that, tummy time also helps prevent plagiocephaly by strengthening babies’ neck muscles. Stronger neck muscles enable babies to move their head around while sleeping so it doesn’t always rest in the same position. Placing your baby on his or her stomach can also help him or her promote motor skills and build strength needed for sitting up, rolling over, crawling and walking.
Also, you should hold your baby often. For instance, if your baby has fallen asleep in a car seat during travel, take your baby out of the seat when you get home rather than leaving your little one napping in the seat.