How do you prevent flat head syndrome?

Caitlin - Midwife at The Baby Academy

Flat head syndrome is also known as plagiocephaly. Baby’s heads are extremely malleable so anything that applies pressure to the skull has the ability to mold. It occurs in babies sleeping exclusively on their backs, and spending a lot of time lying in a rocker, swing, or car seat.

Symptoms of flat head syndrome are visible to the eye, however, it has no effect on your baby’s development or cause any pain. If you notice your baby is developing flat head syndrome, it’s always a good idea to check in with your pediatrician. He or she will rule out craniosynostosis, a rare genetic defect that causes the plates on a baby’s skull to fuse prematurely.

How to prevent Flat Head Syndrome:

Flat head syndrome can be prevented by…

  • Giving your baby at least 30 minutes of tummy time every day
  • Alternating the position in which your baby sleeps
  • Carrying and holding your baby more often
  • Sitting them upright rather than laying back while feeding

Treatments explained:

Reducing pressure on the skull is the most common treatment for flat head syndrome. Tummy time is the most effective and easiest approach. It involves placing a blanket or towel on the floor and putting your baby on his stomach while he’s awake for a few minutes at a time, ideally for at least 30 minutes total every day.

As your baby bobs and weaves to try to lift his head, he’s developing stronger neck and shoulder muscles. He’s also giving the back of his head a break from the pressure of lying flat, which can prevent or help reverse plagiocephaly.

Another treatment if your baby has a flatter head on one side or the other is to switch positions while he sleeps. One way is to simply move his head from one end of the crib to another on alternate rest periods. As he naturally pivots his eyes towards the light or any movement in the room, opposite sides of his head will get a break.

Speak to your GP or public health nurse if you have any concerns about your baby.

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