Flat Head (Positional Plagiocephaly)
Positional Plagiocephaly is the development of a flat area on a baby's skull. It is caused by pressure on the bones of the skull when a baby sleeps in one preferred position or for an extended time in the same position in a stroller or car seat. Premature infants are especially at risk for positional plagiocephaly because their skulls are less developed, and they are more likely to spend more time lying flat on their backs.
What Can I do to Prevent Positional Plagiocephaly?
- Infants should always be placed on their backs to sleep; however, you can reposition your child's sleeping position by placing your child's head on alternate ends of the crib each night or by turning the crib around every few days; babies will usually turn their head away from the wall when they sleep.
- Alternate the arm that you use to hold your infant during feedings.
- Alternate the side you approach your baby on during play or diaper changes. This will help your baby to turn their head to both sides and relieve repeated pressure to one side of their head.
- Supervised “tummy time” each day will remove the pressure from the back or side of your child's head.
What should I do if I notice a flat spot?
If you think your child is developing a flat spot, you should be sure to consult your pediatrician. Positional plagiocephaly can usually be corrected within the first year of life without surgery and does not usually cause any major health concerns. In some cases, however, infants can develop difficulty chewing and eating, have a higher risk of jaw problems like TMJ, and can even develop eye problems. There may also be a psychological toll as your child approaches their teens and becomes more self-conscious of any abnormalities in appearance. Additionally, self-diagnosing a flat spot could cause you to miss a more serious problem called craniosynostosis, a condition that occurs when the skull bones fuse together too soon, which can result in vision defects and may need surgery to correct.