Disclaimer: The information in this article is general in nature and is not intended as a substitute for professional help or advice. Neither Sure Start Chiropractic nor any of its practitioners assume any responsibility for harm or injury to anyone who uses the information. If your child appears to be in pain or discomfort stop the activity and consider discussing this with a spine health professional. The information below applies to the more common ‘deformational’ type of plagiocephaly, not the less common ‘synostotic’ type. If you are unsure of which type applies to your baby please contact a spine care professional or GP for clarification.
In the course of any given day a baby spends a large period of time on their back. One of the best ways to stop the progression of a flat spot on a babies head, and to aid recovery, is to minimise the time spent on the flat spot. A baby’s brain grows very rapidly in the first 12 months of life so if you can reduce the pressure that created the flattening you have the best chance of restoring a better head shape in the short term. There are a number of ways a regular mum or dad can help achieve this at home and when out and about. I have attempted to cover some key tips in the article below.
Place additional padding beneath your baby when they are on their back and you are there to supervise them. A folded blanket or beach towel (e.g. 2-4 layers) beneath their play mat will help spread the pressure on the back of their head during the day. This is especially important if you have hard floors (e.g. wooden or tiled). I cannot recommend that you use a mattress topper or woolen underlay beneath their fitted sheet because this may constitute a suffocation risk. Extra padding in the cot may be helpful for their skull shape but the SIDS and Kids organisation suggest using a ‘firm mattress’ and say not to use pillows or lambswools anywhere in the cot.
When feeding your baby, position them so the flat-spot doesn’t rest directly on your arm. Try instead to hold your child so the ‘proud’ or protruding part of the skull rests on your arm when feeding. If bottle feeding, it is also good practice to swap sides or change your baby’s position half way through each feed to avoid the same spine posture and head position for your baby day in and day out.
Supervised Tummy Time is a good way of getting a baby off the flat-spot on the back of their head for extended periods. Even if they still turn their head to their preferred side it is better than having them lying directly on the flat spot. The front and sides of an infant’s skull are less likely to become misshapen than the back because of the bony structures inside like the orbit (eye socket), upper jaw and the bone around the inner ear.
When your child is asleep (in bed/on the floor/in the car), gently attempt to turn their head away from lying on the flat-spot. If your child remains comfortable and stays there for more than a few minutes then continue to check and re-position them as required as they continue to sleep. The above will typically only work with very mild neck restriction cases.
Carrying/holding your child in an upright position (provided they have adequate head control) may help restore the ‘rounded’ shape to the back/base of a baby’s head if it has been lost. As gravity pushes downwards, the spine pushes upwards at ‘A’ which helps the base of the skull (occiput bone) to roll backward, ‘B’ to a more normal position.
If your child has a one-sided head turn preference when lying down, position their bassinet / cot / play mat / change table in a way that encourages them to turn to their ‘less preferred’ side when they look to the center of the room. During the day, encourage your child to turn to their ‘less preferred’ side regularly throughout the day by calling to them or gesturing (can be done during tummy time, when being held upright or when lying face up).
Positioning your child semi-upright in a rocker (or similar) is another alternative to lying/sleeping flat on the floor. It helps in the same way as the above paragraph, plus a semi-upright position also reduces the direct flattening force on the back of the head from gravity.
I hope you found this article helpful. More articles like it may be found in the ‘Articles & Tips‘ section of our website.
If you have any questions about this topic please don’t hesitate to contact our Sure Start Chiropractic Unley office by phone 8272 2862 or email.