Flat head in babies or plagiocephaly is a medical condition where a flat spot develops on the back of the head or on the side.
For the first three months, babies are mostly sleeping on their back or with their head facing right or left. The baby’s skull bones do not fuse fully and are soft. Sleeping in the same position constantly tends to put pressure on the same parts of the skull, which can lead to a flat head, that is, instead of being round it may look flattened in a certain part.
Dr R Kishore kumar, neonatologist and chairman, Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, suggested some tips parents should keep in mind to avoid the flat head syndrome.
To avoid getting a flat head, parents should give the baby enough tummy time, after one month of age. This means you make your baby, when awake, spend more time lying on their belly under supervision. “Before one month, the baby may not be strong enough to lift the head. Tummy time will encourage the baby to lift the head,” said Dr Kumar.
Change sleeping position
Parents should keep changing the baby’s sleeping position to the other side. “The baby’s head should be turned from one side to the other at intervals so that the head keeps rotating rather than putting pressure on the same area,” advised the neonatologist.
Dr Kumar also warned against putting pillows beside the baby to prevent them from moving sideways. That is dangerous as the baby does not have well-developed reflexes till then, and it can increase the risk of choking.
How is flat head in babies treated?
Even if a baby gets a flat head, it can get corrected with time. Dr Kumar said, “About 90 per cent of head shapes get rectified on their own by 18 months. There is rapid brain growth happening in babies at this time. The average head size of a baby at birth is 35 cm, which goes up to 50 cm by the age of two years. Besides, once the hair grows, the shape of the head cannot be seen so much. In some parts of the US, a head re-shaping helmet is used, but it is not recommended and therefore not available in any other part of the world.”