Flat head syndrome, also known as Plagiocephaly, is a condition where the baby has a flat spot or uneaven spot on their head. This usually occurs on the back of their head or one of the sides.
What causes flat head syndrome for newborns?
Sometimes your newborn might be all squished up or in a strange position in your uterus. They may also have a genetic predisposition to flat head syndrome, making them more likely to experience it.
Usually though, flat head syndrome is caused by a baby spending too much time laying down. Now I know what you are thinking, a newborn baby can’t even sit up so how will they not be laying down all the time. Flat head syndrome is mainly caused when they lay with pressure frequently on the same part of their head. This happens because their skull is still very soft, this is what allows them to pass through the birth canal, so it can be reshaped.
Is Flat Head Syndrome Dangerous?
Generally speaking flat head syndrome isn’t dangerous. Usually it is more of a cosmetic issue. With that said it could indicate other underlying problems such as muscle weakness, tight muscles, or even possibly vision issues in your newborn.
Please never ignore any flat spots that you notice on your babies head.
How to prevent flat head syndrome in your newborn
Please discuss any flat spots you are noticing with your healthcare provider as sometimes an infant may require a special helmet in order to correct any flat spots so that there isn’t any lasting effects. This sounds worse than it is, don’t worry though the helmet isn’t forever!
Luckily there are some things you can do to prevent flat head syndrome from happening in the first place. If the flat area isn’t severe you may even be able to correct it by following the tips in this article.
Tummy time is the number one best way to prevent any flat spots from developing. This is because your newborn will have no pressure on their head. Tummy time also has benefits other than preventing flat head syndrome such as strengthening neck and arm muscles and relieving gas.
A lot of newborns do not like tummy time, but using a pillow to help prop them up can help. I personally loved my breastfeeding pillow for this. It is also important to give your newborn something to look at while they are down there, so get on the ground with them because babies love looking at faces. Mirrors or high contrast items are also especially appealing for newborns.
You will likely have to start slow and then move up from there. Most newborns can only tolerate a few minutes per day to start.
Lay your baby on their side
Before I get into this, laying flat on their back is the only safe sleep position for a newborn, so do not put your baby to sleep like this.
Now that that is out of the way, side-laying positions can take the pressure off any flat spots that are developing on the back of your babies head. Simply lay your baby on his or her side and put a pillow or rolled up blanket behind them so that they don’t flop back over.
Just like during tummy time, your baby will want some entertainment when they are down there!
Please be mindful that this position will put pressure on the side of your babies head, so be sure to switch sides.
Hold your baby
Okay this sounds silly because I know you are just soaking up all those baby snuggles right now, but hear me out! Holding your baby in different positions such as on their side, over your shoulder, or even facing out when they are older can relieve or change the pressure points. Plus who doesn’t want all those cuddles.
Use a infant carrier
These are great, they allow you to keep your baby cuddled in against your body and relieve the pressure on their head. It also allows your baby to look around and work on strengthening those neck muscles. Plus, your hands are free so you can still get things done around the house if you want too.
I went through 4 different ones trying to find something I truly loved. Honestly there are just so many different types. I had two that ended up being my favorites – The Baby K’tan and the Becco Gemini Baby carriers.
I plan to do a full review on all four carriers I tried so stay tuned for that! Don’t want to miss out? Sign up for our newsletter to the right of this post and be the first to hear about new posts, freebies, tips and giveaways.
Avoid prolonged use of baby gear
We all need to put our babies down at some point. It isn’t feasible to think we can snuggle them 24/7 so things like bouncers and swings come in handy. Unfortunately, these keep your baby in the same position for extended periods of time. This means that there is constantly pressure on the same spot on their heads which can cause flat head syndrome.
Don’t worry, I am not saying to never use them. But you do need to be mindful of how long your baby is in these devices. As long as your are giving your infant routine breaks to relieve the pressure, they should be okay.
As your baby gets a little bit older and has some head/neck control, positioning seats can come in handy! They allow your baby to sit up before they can do so themselves. Sitting up removes all pressure from your babies head and is a great activity to correct any flat spots. Plus babies LOVE to look around and observe everything.
Please research your positioning seat before you purchase as some of them do not allow correct positioning of the hips and may lead to developing hip dysplasia.
We personally used the Fisher-Price Sit Me Up and absolutely loved it. You can check it out here if you are interested in it.
Prop Them Up with a pillow
If you don’t want to purchase another baby item you can prop your baby up with a pillow. Personally I find breastfeeding pillows like a Boppy to be the best for this due to their shape but any pillow or even rolled blankets will work. This position is best when your infant develops some head and neck control.
Please do not leave your baby unattended in this position and remember this is not a safe sleeping position.
Head positioning pillows
There are certain pillows you can purchase that reduce pressure to your babies head as they allow for the weight to be distributed instead of all in one spot. Please discuss with your healthcare provider before purchasing these items. These items are not recommended by the American Pediatric Association for safe sleep so please be careful if you do choose to use them.
That’s a Wrap
If your baby develops a flat spot, remember it isn’t your fault! You are a great mom and sometimes these things just happen. This is fairly common with newborns and correctable! Just take a deep breath and start implementing some of these strategies!
Don’t forget to discuss any significant flat spots with your healthcare provider, as these steps may not be enough. Proper assessment is required for early correction with a helmet.
Wondering what other things you may need for your baby? Check out my post on NEWBORN ESSENTIALS HERE. There are only 5 things I absolutely couldn’t live without!
Do you have any tips to correct or prevent flat head syndrome in newborns? I would love to hear about them in the comments below.