Today we’ve got a guest post from one of our lovely readers, Victoria, whose son Max suffered from plagiocephaly. Victoria isn’t a healthcare professional, but she is a mum who had been through it, and as there’s very little information out there on the internet about plagiocephaly (or ‘flat head syndrome’), hers is a story which might be of use to new mums.
Plagiocephaly is the flattening of the back of a baby’s skull caused by pressure on the head. As a baby’s skull is soft (so you can get it out!) and the plates are not fused, the head can become flat. It is reasonably common as newborns (hopefully) tend to spend quite a lot of time asleep and since the ‘safe to sleep’ campaign to reduce the risk of SIDS, there is pressure on the back of their heads.
At 3 months old we noticed our new baby Max was developing a flat area to the back of his (otherwise faultless!) head. Our first son has a perfectly round head, although a good sleeper he wasn’t in the same league sleep-wise as Max who slept through the night from 10 weeks (not bragging, and don’t ask how, I’ve no idea!) which was the main contributing factor in our case to him developing plagiocephaly.
I feel a bit guilty for worrying and trying to correct something which is purely cosmetic in my baby, especially when you read such sad stories of poorly children. But, as a parent, you want the very best for your child and you want them to be perfect – whatever “perfection” may be. The thought of him being teased at school chilled my bones and so in mid-July I took Max to our health visitor. We were referred (by choice) to the paediatric physiotherapist and went along to a drop-in clinic at the start of August (only two weeks wait – well done NHS).
The only health concern with plagiocephaly is that tightening in the neck can occur, this is called torticollis. The lovely physio checked Max over, looked at his spine and positioning and confirmed that he had plagiocephaly but importantly he didn’t show a head turning preference.
In this country there is little “treatment” but in America, particularly, helmets are commonplace. Babies wear them for 23 out of 24 hours for as long as 6 months and can become very distressed. My husband and I agreed we didn’t want to put Max through that.
The best way to help resolve plagiocephaly is to encourage your baby to get off the back of their head – teaching them to roll and lots and lots of tummy time. Max was unimpressed by this initially but soon loved it, as did his big brother “helping”. We did a lot of floor play and he learnt to roll from his back to his tummy quickly. When he was asleep, on advice from the physio, we positioned his head to either side, alternating each time. He still sleeps like a dream but moves more and so we are noticing his head reshaping and becoming rounder – hurrah!
If I ever persuaded my husband to have a third baby (!) we’d ensure we did loads more tummy time with them from day one and positioned the head whilst sleeping to try and prevent plagiocephaly.
Have you ever heard of plagiocephaly, or had any experience of it?
What do you think of the very different approach that the Americans take?
Image by Anna Hardy