I’m glad this research made some news yesterday! Most of my parents who come in because their kiddos have torticollis or a flat head usually say they had no idea that their baby could develop a flat head. Then I have to go through my talk like I usually do explaining that it’s actually pretty common in the patients we see that are younger than 6 months.
Here are the highlights from the article:
An education campaign launched in 1992 to have healthy babies sleep on their backs is credited with a 50% decrease in the infant mortality rate in the U.S. from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. But along with the decline has come greater awareness of a condition called positional plagiocephaly, in which an infant’s head is flattened or misshapen, from too much time in the back position in the first months of life.
A new, large sample of 440 healthy infants finds 47% of babies ages 7 to 12 weeks had the condition.
Ongoing flat spots on the back or one side of an infant’s head “are signs that the baby has not been given enough opportunities for repositioning” to prevent pressure on the flat areas and gradually correct the head shape, says Mawji, lead author of the study in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics, published online today.
According to an American Academy of Pediatrics’ 2011 clinical report on positional plagiocephaly, these conditions are “generally benign, reversible” anomalies that do not require surgical intervention, as opposed to craniosynostosis, a serious skull abnormality that can result in neurologic damage and progressive craniofacial distortion.
The vast majority of cases can be corrected with physical therapy and non-invasive measures, according to the AAP. If the condition appears to be worsening by 6 months, referrals should be made to a pediatric neurosurgeon to help determine whether a skull-shaping orthotic helmet or other interventions are needed.
Both the AAP and the National Institutes of Health stress that flat spots are much less serious than SIDS and that parents and caregivers should continue to place infants on their backs to sleep, while incorporating repositioning strategies, including:
• “Tummy time” when the infant is awake and supervised. This not only helps prevent flat spots, but it also helps the head, neck and shoulder muscles get stronger as part of normal development.
• Changing the direction that the infant lies in the crib from one week to the next. This encourages the infant to turn his or her head in different directions to avoid resting in the same position all the time.
• Avoiding too much time in car seats, carriers and bouncers while the infant is awake. Spend “cuddle time” with the child by holding him or her upright over one shoulder often during the day.
• Changing the location of the infant’s crib in the room so that the child has to look in different directions to see the door or the window.
You can also check out my past post on tummy time tips.