When babies are first born, their heads can often be misshapen the first few days, especially after a difficult delivery. In most cases the head shape corrects itself shortly after birth, and there is no problem. But some infant’s heads continue to look flat, a condition called plagiocephaly. Plagiocephaly is a treatable condition, which our pediatric plastic surgeons can help your infant with. These physicians are not just board certified, but also specialty trained in this condition and others of the cranium or pertaining to the head.
Causes of Plagiocephaly
Positional plagiocephaly occurs as the baby develops a position of comfort, lying in bed on one side of the head. Although this is not a new condition, the number of babies being diagnosed has risen over recent years, which is believed to be a consequence of babies sleeping on their backs in order to reduce the incidence of SIDS.
Positional plagiocephaly can also be caused by torticollis, which prevents a baby using his neck muscles properly. Torticollis is one of the main contributor for positional plagiocephaly and can be corrected with physical therapy. If torticollis is not treated early on, then repositioning will not work as the baby will find it difficult to turn his head in both directions.
It is usually not necessary to treat mild cases of plagiocephaly; however, for moderate or severe plagiocephaly, either repositioning or a helmet is recommended, depending on the age of the baby.
For mild cases a baby, like all babies, should be placed on her back when sleeping, but parents should ensure their baby’s head is placed on the right side one night, the left side the next and the middle the next night. In addition it’s important to limit the amount of time a baby spends lying on her back during the day and try to ensure she does not spend too long with her head against hard surfaces. This can be done by encouraging tummy time.
Repositioning involves encouraging a baby to lie differently so the affected area is no longer under near-continual pressure, which causes the flatness. This can make a real difference to a baby’s head shape but if the problem is not noticed or treated until a baby is about five-months old, he may need to wear a specially made helmet to coax his head back into shape. Until a baby is eight or nine months old, the helmets have an excellent chance of success but, by a child’s first birthday, their head is almost completely formed, which is why it’s so important that parents do something about plagiocephaly when they notice it.
If you would like to have your child evaluated for plagiocephaly or have another question about head shape, request a consultation today with one of our pediatric plastic and reconstructive specialists.