Plagiocephaly and Plagiocephaly Pillows – What You Need to Know

 

Plagio Pillows

Plagio pillows are everywhere. All different sizes, shapes, designs, price points and promises. They claim to prevent a baby’s head from getting flat and/or “fix” the head shape if it is already flat. We know what happens. You are up late at night, searching Amazon to find answers about infant flat head syndrome or ways to prevent plagiocephaly. Trust us – we understand! You want what is best for your baby. 

We want to help you know all the facts before purchasing this product. Baby Begin is a team of pediatric physical and occupational therapists who specialize in infant plagiocephaly, torticollis, developmental delays and new parent education. We have worked with literally thousands of families all over the world and our goal is to prevent baby helmet use and build awareness about this very common condition. We are on YOUR side and want you to have the most accurate information to help you make the best decisions for your family.  

First Things First

Let’s start with a quick anatomy lesson so we can really understand plagiocephaly or infant flat head syndrome. An infant’s skull is very soft and malleable. This is important because it needs to pass through the birth canal easily. So, when babies are young (birth – 4 months), their skull is very susceptible to the forces placed upon it (think, sleeping position). If a baby’s head is in the same position for many, many hours a day, it can get flattened in that area. Sometimes we see a skull that is only flat on one side (plagiocephaly), sometimes it is flattened across the entire back of skull (brachycephaly) and for others, we see it flattened on both the sides of head (scaphocephaly).  Every head shape is different and beautiful but they are all products of where they spent the most time! 

So then, the most logical question is, how can I prevent my baby’s head from getting flat?  Can a “specialized” pillow take my worries away and keep my baby’s head round? Do these so-called “plagio pillows” actually work? Can a small pillow with soft material and a hole in the middle actually keep my sweet baby’s head round?  You ready for the truth? Unfortunately, they don’t work and going even further, they could be making the problem worse. Here is why we advise against purchasing one .

Why You Shouldn't Use a Plagio Pillow

#1 – Plagio pillows restrict baby’s neck mobility 

Babies who have flat head syndrome, often have what we call torticollis, which is a fancy word for tightening on one side of the neck.  This causes baby to sleep in the same position all the time, which then causes the skull to get flat on that side. 

Any type of pillow that RESTRICTS the movement of a head and neck is exactly what we don’t want. It will make the torticollis worse (baby can’t move head freel) and prevent your baby from growing and developing normally. Again, the more freedom your baby has to move freely, the better off they will be. For a good understanding of this concept, check out this video of a baby using a popular plagio pillow and not using a pillow. It is very clear how much more movement the baby gets without the pillow! 

#2 – Plagio pillows don’t provide the necessary forces to correct or prevent infant flat head syndrome  

 If your baby’s head is not flat, that is good and we want to keep it that way! This means we want to allow the baby to move the head/neck freely, which varies the forces placed upon the skull. THIS is what keeps it pretty, not just keeping it in one place on a pillow. The best place for a baby to play is on the floor. Here is one of our favorite play mats that is comfortable for baby and is big enough for them to explore. Motor development is best promoted by allowing baby to move freely and kick those little arms and legs. 

If your baby’s head IS flat, it needs a force on the bulged area of the skull in order to grow in the flattened area. A plagiocephaly pillow is just not able to provide that. For babies with flat heads, try putting a few fun items for your baby to look at on the NONFLATTENED side. A good black and white book, mirror or music toy are good options. Here are some of our favorite toys for floor time. This will encourage them to look in that direction and keep the pressure off of the flattened side. For more tricks on positioning babies with plagiocephaly, check out this blog.

#3 – Plagio pillows can be expensive

Like many products for babies, the prize is often high, especially when you realize  the short amount of time you will actually use the item. Most baby products are used for a few months and then find their way to your closet or storage area. It is often difficult for new parents to decifer what are the essential items and what are the “bonus items”. Marketing to new parents is a profitable business so it can be very difficult. 

Plagiocephaly pillows can be pricey and because they don’t actually work, your money is better spent elsewhere. Again, if you are concerned about your baby’s head shape, the best place to start is speaking to your pediatrician or a local pediatric physical/occupational therapy group. There are many factors that need to be considered and just purchasing a pillow is not the answer. 

#4 – Plagio pillows aren’t safe 

The American Academy of Pediatrics states “Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation or strangulation out of the baby’s sleep area.” Keeping a loose object like a plagio pillow around the baby, especially when sleeping or unsupervised, can be very dangerous and nothing is worth the safety of your baby. 

Floor is Best

So, just to recap - if your baby has flat head syndrome, the absolute best place for them is on the floor without anything but some fun toys to look at. Don’t be tempted to buy into marketing ploys trying to convince parents that these products will somehow correct or prevent plagiocephaly. Plagio pillows are not what they promise to be. 

**If you have concerns about your baby’s head shape, it is best to reach out to a pediatric therapist or your pediatrician sooner rather than later. Treating flat head syndrome is easier and cheaper when babies are very young. Did you know we do consultations with families all over the world?! If you have specific concerns about your baby’s head shape and/or development – don’t hesitate to reach out. We have treated thousands of babies. Yours could be one – schedule a consultation here

For more information, check out our IG @babybegin, where we talk about everything baby!