Flat head in babies: causes and prevention

Beneath his soft hair, your baby’s skull is like a set of moving jigsaw pieces that allow his head to grow. These malleable plates are perfect for protecting your little one’s developing brain, but they can flatten out when you put him on his back.

In this article, we’ll look at the causes of flat head and how to prevent it.

The causes of flat head syndrome

The most common cause of a flat head, also known as positional plagiocephaly, is the baby’s sleeping position. Infants lie on their backs for several hours each day, so the head sometimes flattens in the same place. This happens not only while they are sleeping, but also when they are in their car seat, baby carrier or pushchair.

Flat head syndrome can even start before birth if there is pressure on the baby’s skull from the mother’s pelvis or a twin.

Flat head syndrome can also be caused by torticollis, which prevents babies from turning their heads. Because it is difficult for them to turn their heads, babies tend to keep their heads in the same position when they are lying down.

It takes a lot of energy for babies to turn their heads. So those with severe flattening on one side tend to stay on that side and their necks become stiff from lack of use.

How do you recognise flat head syndrome?

Flat head syndrome is generally easy for parents to notice:

The back of the baby’s head is flatter on one side.

The baby generally has less hair on this part of the head.

 When you look at the baby’s head, the ear on the flattened side may appear unstuck.

In severe cases, the forehead may bulge on the side opposite the flattening and may look irregular. If torticollis is the cause, the neck, jaw and face may also be uneven.

Preventing flat head syndrome

First of all, it’s important to remember that, even in cases of severe flat head syndrome, it’s not advisable to have baby sleep on his stomach.

To prevent flat head syndrome, it’s best to avoid making your baby sleep where he can’t move his head freely (car seat or swing).

So what can parents do when flat head syndrome is caused by a sleeping or lying position? There are a few simple things you can do to help it go away.

Place baby on his stomach during the day under supervision.

Vary the positions in the cradle. Place your baby in the cradle to encourage active head rotation on the side that is not flattened.

Hold your baby more often. Limit the amount of time your baby spends lying on his back or with his head resting against a flat surface. For example, if your baby has fallen asleep in a car seat, take him out of the seat when you get home rather than letting him sleep in it.

Change the position of the head while your baby is sleeping. Change the position of your baby’s head (left to right, right to left) when your baby is sleeping on his back. Even if your baby moves during the night, place him with the rounded side of his head touching the mattress and the flattened side facing upwards. Do not use pillows to keep your baby in the same position.

Flat head syndrome improves with time and growth. And even if it doesn’t look good, it doesn’t affect a baby’s brain growth. By following these few tips, your baby will regain a perfectly rounded skull.

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