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Flat Head Syndrome In Babies

4 min read

Like we discussed in our previous article, infants have soft spots known as fontanels on their head. A baby’s head is very delicate especially in the first few weeks since the delivery. Hence often babies tend to develop spots on its head that are flat or misshapen. This usually happens because the baby lies in a particular position for a long time. Gradually these flattened spots disappear and the baby’s head becomes nicely rounded.
Baby in mother's head
In some cases, the flattened spots may linger on for weeks and even months. This condition is known as the Flat Head Syndrome, also called positional plagiocephaly.

Types Of Flat-head Syndrome In Babies

There are two types of Flat Head Syndrome

  • Brachycephaly: Brachycephaly is the condition where the head of the baby is flattened out exactly at the back
  • Plagiocephaly: Plagiocephaly is the condition where the head of the baby is flattened out from one side

Causes Of Flat Head Syndrome

  1. Lack of Amniotic Fluid in the uterus: Amniotic fluid in the uterus ensures baby’s growth and development. It helps the baby’s bones and muscles to grow. Lack of amniotic fluid in the womb can temporarily deform the head. This generally happens when the mother is expecting twins or triplets
  2. Sleeping position of the baby: If your baby is constantly sleeping on his back, the back of the head may slightly flatten because of the pressure. Similarly if the baby is sleeping in a particular position more often than not he may develop a flat head syndrome
  3. Premature delivery: As the delivery date approaches, your baby’s head develops rapidly, especially in the last weeks of pregnancy. A premature baby doesn’t get ample time in the womb to strengthen its skull and hence they are more likely to be born with a slightly misshapen head
  4. Tightened muscles: Some babies may suffer from tightened muscles in their neck. These tightened muscles restrict movement of the neck. Hence some babies may find it difficult to turn their neck in a particular direction. Due to this restriction they may rest their head in the opposite position all the time, which could result in flat head syndrome
  5. Craniosynostosis: In some cases, the bone plates in the baby’s skull may connect together too quickly. This condition is known as craniosynostosis. A case of craniosynostosis may result in a slightly deformed or misshapen head

Is My Baby Prone To Flat Head Syndrome?

Flat head syndrome is more common among babies that are first born since they have to deal with intense pressure of passing through the birthing canal. If the doctors use equipments like forceps to help deliver the child, chances are the baby might be prone to flat head syndrome. If a mother is about to deliver twins or triplets chances are the baby or babies may have the flat head syndrome.

What Are The Symptoms Of Flat Head Syndrome In Babies

Usually babies that have had normal delivery have a slightly flattened or pressed head. This is because the baby’s skull is soft during the delivery so that it can pass through the delivery canal swiftly. The skull gradually regains it shape over the period of six weeks. If your baby’s head is still not round by the end of sixth week it could mean that your baby has flat head syndrome. Also, if you notice a bulge on the head or the baby’s face doesn’t look symmetrical, it could mean your baby has the flat head syndrome.

What Can Be Done For My Baby’s Flat Head Syndrome?

  • Keep changing the sleeping position: When a baby sleeps in the same position for a long time, it could result in a slightly flattened head. Hence it is important that you constantly keep changing your baby’s sleeping position. Move him and change the side your baby is laying on. You could put toys on a side of the crib or the bed and change the position of the toys nightly or time to time. This will encourage the baby to turn his head more often
  • Lay the baby down on his stomach: Babies generally sleep on their back, this puts a lot of pressure on the back of their head and could result in a flattened head. To balance the amount of time the baby spends laying on his back, switch his position and let him rest on his stomach while he is awake. This will help the baby’s neck muscle to strengthen and even give some break to the back of his head. Read more on tummy time here
  • Limit the sitting time: While sitting, babies tend to rest their head in their chair. This puts pressure on the particular spot of the head. Hence limit your baby’s sitting hours. Don’t let your baby sit in the same position for a long period of time

When To Contact The Doctor

Even after 6 months your baby’s head is not round, you can discuss it with your doctor. The doctor may give some tips and may even suggest some exercises. If your baby is 6 months or plus and his head is still flattened, you must consult the doctor at the earliest.

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