Are you concerned about your baby’s head shape?
Babies are prone to developing flat spots on their heads because their skull has not fully hardened. It is composed of several soft, flat bones that are not yet fused together. As a newborn, they have limited head control which leads them to be susceptible to having extra pressure on their head leading to flat spots. The two most common diagnoses associated with flattening of the skull include plagiocephaly and brachycephaly.
- Plagiocephaly – Flattening of the side of the skull commonly related to baby lying on their back with head turned to the side
- Brachycephaly – Flattening of the back of the skull commonly related to babies lying on their back for too long
If plagiocephaly/brachycephaly is not treated early, it may lead to facial asymmetries that include: uneven eyes, uneven ears, and a jaw shift. Facial asymmetries and plagiocephaly/brachycephaly may be associated with Torticollis (muscle tightness in the neck which may present with a lean to one side or rotation to one side).
How can physical therapy help?
Physical therapists are trained in evaluating, assessing, and treating postural abnormalities that are associated with plagiocephaly and brachycephaly. We use our skills to assess muscle development, head shape, facial asymmetries, and developmental milestones. The following will be completed during evaluations and treatments in order to provide the best care and resources for you and your child:
- Educate on how to position your baby throughout the day to prevent further flattening
- Provide tips and tricks to improve tolerance to tummy time in order to decrease pressure on your baby’s head
- Assess for Torticollis and muscle development. We can provide safe stretches if there is a lack in mobility
- Assess gross motor development to ensure your baby reaches the appropriate milestones
- Monitor skull shape to determine if an orthotic (such as remolding helmet) is needed
The best outcomes for improving head shape and posture occur when intervention is started early, preferably by the age of 3-4 months. The earlier you seek intervention, the more time there is to provide education related to positioning, stretches, posture, and motor development. Older infants are often on the move, which makes providing stretches more difficult. They also may develop compensatory patterns or asymmetrical movement patterns, which can be prevented with early treatment.
How can I prevent plagiocephaly and brachycephaly?
Flattening of the skull can occur during pregnancy or following birth. The following are some ways that you can prevent potential flattening of the skull after birth.
- Implement tummy time as soon as possible. This allows your baby to develop improved muscle strength while also reducing pressure on their head. Supervised tummy time during wake hours is a great way to interact and play with your baby.
- Limit time spent in “containers,” such as car seats, bouncers, swings, and strollers. These “containers” limit their movement which can lead to the flattening of their skull.
- Frequently change the position of your baby throughout the day. This will prevent them from developing any preferences while also allowing them to interact in new ways within their environment.
If you are concerned about your baby’s head shape, please reach out and come see us at Chatterbox. We will be more than happy to assess your concerns and develop a plan to assist you and your child.