I am Worried that My Baby’s Head is Flat – What Should I do? Print E-mail

Many babies are born with slight deformities in the shapes of their heads, because of the pressure that is exerted on the skull in the birthing canal during the birthing process. Babies can also develop flat heads after delivery because of sleeping on their backs for prolonged periods, or continual contact with firm surfaces (cot mattresses, prams, play mats etc). If noticed and addressed early, this can be rectified easily.

There are things that you can do to help minimise the risk of your baby getting a flat head post-delivery. Firstly, regularly check to see if the baby favours sleeping in any particular position or looking in one particular direction. If this is the case, your baby has an increased chance of developing Flat Head Syndrome. Also:


Are There Different Types of Flat Head Syndrome? What are They? Print E-mail

Not many parents fully understand Flat Head Syndrome and there have been numerous instances when this condition is actually mistaken for a more serious one (Craniosynostosis). While both Flat Head Syndrome and Craniosynostosis do result in mis-shaped heads, these are two very different conditions and so is the approach to treat them. (Addressing cases of Flat Head Syndrome is considerably easier. )

Flat Head Syndromey is caused due to external pressure being applied to the baby’s skull. Craniosynostosis is the result of the premature synthesis (closing) of the skull’s sutures.

Who gets Flat Head Syndrome?

The incidence of Flat Head Syndrome in babies has dramatically increased over the past 5 years. This condition happens due to external moulding of a baby’s skull through various means. From zero to four months, the regular pressure of flat surfaces like cot mattresses and prams can cause flat spots on the back or sides of the head. Occasionally a baby is born with this condition and this could be either due to pressure in the birthing canal or even in cases of multiple births where space is constrained.

What Ages of Babies are at Risk of Flat Head Syndrome? Print E-mail

A recent review of medical literature from 1985 & 2007 found numerous papers discussing the occurrence of  Flat Head Syndrome. This review showed that while the incidence of this condition stood at over 22% in children who were seven weeks old, this figure went down to around three per cent in children aged two – that is, the research showed that Flat Head Syndrome was more common in newborns than in older children. It also showed that this condition’s prevalence has been on the rise in the past decade. In the 1970s, the occurrence of flat-head was one in every 300 babies. Today, two in every 20 are affected. *

This condition can, at times, be noticed immediately after birth and this is due to pressure being applied to the baby’s head during birth.  Babies born prematurely are known to face an increased risk as their skulls are even softer, and also because they tend to spend long periods resting on their backs (as it is medically required). Multiple birth babies have also shown to have an increased risk due to lack of space in the womb.


Treatment and Prevention

Flat Head Syndrome currently affects 1 in 10 newborn babies in Australia to some degree.  It is most common in premature or multiple births, but also affects many babies who spend time lying on their back or favor one side.  As well as being a cosmetic problem, it has recently been linked to developmental delays in newborn babies according to a recent study by Dr Matthew Speltz, Clinical Psychologist at the Seattle Children’s Institute.



Does a Head Support Really Help in Preventing Flat Head Syndrome?


Whilst there is no randomised clinical trial that supports the fact that a flat head pillow can help prevent the occurrence of Flat Head Syndrome in a baby, there are an increasing number of people from the medical fraternity as well as parents and carers who vouch for the effectiveness of some of these pillows designed especially for babies less than 6 months old.



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