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The Facts About Flat Head Syndrome

March 15, 2017

From the Spring 2017 issue of AtlanticView Kids:

If you have a newborn, here’s a fact to share with grandparents, babysitters and all other caregivers: Babies should sleep on their backs until they are one year old to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

That’s probably not news to you. But this fact might be: When your baby’s awake, he or she needs supervised “belly time.” This prevents the growing issue of “flat head syndrome,” or plagiocephaly, where the baby’s head is flat on the back or on one side.

“Flat head syndrome occurs when babies spend too much time on their backs,” says Tosan Livingstone, MD, neurodevelopmental pediatrician for the Craniofacial Center at Goryeb Children’s Hospital. “Though it won’t affect brain growth, it’s important to catch it early.”

Due to the highly successful campaign of getting babies to sleep on their backs to prevent SIDS, flat head syndrome has increased greatly. Babies more likely to develop it are those who are premature, or those who have low muscle tone, a head that tilts to one side (“torticollis”) or developmental disorders.

Prevention and Treatment

Fortunately, there are easy ways to combat flat head syndrome, such as the following:

  • Have your baby sit upright with your help.
  • Change the way the baby faces in the crib.
  • Give your baby supervised “belly time” for a few minutes several times a day, from birth.
  • If you notice this condition, contact your doctor for steps to correct it and prevent it from getting severe.

“If it’s not treated in the first year, the shape of the head is not likely to change,” Dr. Livingstone says. Experts at Goryeb Children’s Hospital offer both education and treatment such as physical therapy. In addition, lightweight “cranial molding” helmets work well to correct the shape of the head, especially when the baby is aged five to eight months, and the flat head is moderate to severe.

For more information, call 973-971-8585.