“What has happened to my baby’s head?” exclaims Becky, mother of 2 month old Sarah. “I looked at it one day and all of a sudden it is flat!”
Have you or someone you know said this? Most likely the baby has “plagiocephaly”, or flat head syndrome. Unfortunately, it is very common with our little ones. In fact, 1 in 60 babies will suffer from it each year.
The good news is that, for the most part, it is preventable. The bad news is that expectant and new parents are not receiving the information early enough. By the time they get this vital information, their baby’s head is already flat. You are a lucky one because you are reading this now and you can pass it along to all of your friends, family and peers that are expecting babies. You will be part of a movement to save our babies’ heads!
The following are four things you can do to keep your baby’s head round. If you have problems with any of them and suspect a problem, contact your pediatrician right away. Don’t wait until your next appointment. There is a very small window of opportunity – don’t let it slip away.
Babies should always be put to sleep on their back. Try, though, to turn their head a different direction at each sleep time. Rotate them in the crib so they face different directions. Alternate which side you are feeding, changing and carrying them. The key here is to watch for a preference to always turn their head in the same direction. If you see a preference, talk to your pediatrician right away. You might need a therapist to evaluate for neck tightness (torticollis). Early treatment of this is a critical part of preventing flat head syndrome.
2. TUMMY TIME
Supervised tummy time should be started immediately after the baby is born. At first, the baby may not like it. If you do it in small increments and start early, the baby will adjust quickly. Try to incorporate supervised tummy time into your daily schedule, just like you do feedings and diaper changes. The first 2-3 months are the most critical time for your baby’s head shape. Start right now!
3. INCLINED SURFACES
These can be your best friend but also your biggest enemy, so use them with caution. An “incline surface” includes a car seat/carrier, nap nanny, swing and bouncy seat. Combined, these should not make up more than 3 hours of your baby’s day. Don’t forget to count all shopping trips, meals out, naps, walks, errands, siblings’ activities, etc. It adds up – so watch it closely. If you have multiples, this gets a little bit more complicated. Just do your best.
*For some babies, an inclined surface is recommended after feedings for reflux. If this is the case, you might need to collaborate with a therapist to work in accordance with these important precautions.
4. HEAD CHECKS
Keep a close eye on the shape of your baby’s head from the moment you get home from the hospital. The best way to look at it is from a “bird’s eye view” or looking down on it. This is how you can tell if there is any flattening or asymmetry. Typically the flattening will begin in the back so that is a good place to start. If you see any, let your pediatrician know so you can address it right away.
So there you have it – the four secrets to a round head. Good luck and may your baby reap the benefits of all your hard work!