Flattened head in babies is not uncommon. It is a condition where a part of the head of baby becomes flat because of constant pressure on one spot. This condition is also called flat head syndrome. Infants are more vulnerable as their skull bone is very soft and pliable.
Flattening can be of two types called plagiocephaly and brachycephaly. In plagiocephaly the head of baby is flat on one side due to pressure on a spot. In brachycephaly the head is wider than deep because baby lie for long period of time on his back.This leads to flattening of back part of the head.
Usually after 6 months the head of baby will become round on its own as he starts to sit and crawl. However, babies with severe flattening need correction to prevent unbalanced appearance of their face.
What Causes Flattening Of Head In Babies?
Skull of infants and babies is made up of several bone plates. During birth the skull bones are loosely connected with each other. As the baby grows older, the skull bones fuse. But after birth for few months the skull bone is very soft and pliable.Thus slight pressure can change the shape of skull. When pressure lasts for a longer period on one particular spot of skull it can lead to flattened head. There are several possible causes:
- If there is less amniotic fluid there is possibility of skull molding while in the womb. The amniotic fluid may not be able to cushion the baby’s head and it may get deformed as a result.
- Multiple fetuses in womb can become the cause as there is less space.
- Some babies may have torticollis, a problem related to neck muscles which prevents turning of head from one side to other. In this condition the head remains turned to one side as a result the head is pressed more on one side resulting in flat head. Premature babies are more prone to suffer from torticollis.
- Craniosynostosis is a condition where the bones of skull fuse early. This birth defect can cause bulging of head from one side disproportionately. This out of shape head may need surgical correction.
The risk of flattening is more in first birth, premature infants, forceps delivery, and baby preferring to sleep turning his head on one side.
How To Prevent Flattened Head In Babies?
Flattening of baby’s head can be prevented in following ways;
- Do not allow the baby to lie on his back for a long time frequently.
- Encourage the baby to sleep on different sides so that his head is turned around and less pressure is put on one spot of the skull.
- Alternate sides while you carry or feed your baby.
- While your baby is sitting, avoid him leaving seated for an extended period of time with his head resting in one spot.
- When the baby is awake place him on his tummy for a while. This will not only prevent pressure on one side of head but also strengthen neck muscles of baby.
- If the baby is more than 6 months pediatricians often recommend use of helmets or headbands. This encourages the head to be more in rounded shape. However, whether this is necessary is only determined by the pediatrician after examining the baby’s head shape.