Positional Plagiocephaly: What Is It?

baby laying on backNewborns have incredibly soft skulls to aid in delivery. It is very common for children who are born vaginally to have oddly shaped heads, though this condition usually resolves itself after six weeks, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS). If you notice a flat, misshapen spot on your baby’s head after he is six weeks old, he may have a condition called positional plagiocephaly, or “flattened head.”

Positional plagiocephaly is a result of constant pressure on a specific area of baby’s head, according to the AANS. It is very common. In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics began urging parents to place babies on their backs during sleep to combat SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The campaign has saved thousands of lives as the number of SIDS deaths has dropped dramatically, but the cases of positional plagiocephaly have increased fivefold, according to the AANS.

Plagiocephaly is most common in babies who sleep very deeply in one position, babies who are premature or have weak muscle tone, and babies with large heads.

Plagiocephaly is most common in babies who sleep very deeply in one position, babies who are premature or have weak muscle tone, and babies with large heads.

Premature babies are more likely to have torticollis, a tight muscle on the neck that makes it difficult or uncomfortable to turn the chin to one side. Because babies with torticollis are constantly sleeping in one position, they are very likely to develop a flat spot on one side of their head.

Signs and symptoms of positional plagiocephaly are usually pretty obvious—that flat spot is hard for a parent to miss. If the plagiocephaly is severe, you may notice asymmetry or bulging on the opposite side of the head. One ear may shift forward, or you may even notice a forehead or cheek protrusion. This only happens in severe cases.

To prevent positional plagiocephaly, make sure your baby has plenty of supervised tummy time so she can strengthen her neck. It’s important to cuddle her as well—hold her against your shoulder—so she can look around and develop head control. If you bottle feed, make sure you alternate sides each time so that baby is not always in the same position. Limit the time your baby spends in a car seat, bouncer, swing, carrier, etc. And alternate the direction she lies down for her naps and bedtime as well—point her feet toward one side of the crib for a few days, and then switch for the next few days. If the crib is against the wall, baby will naturally want to peek out the side that faces the room. Do not put your baby on his stomach to correct positional plagiocephaly.

{ MORE: Your Baby’s Soft Spot }

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It’s likely that once your baby begins sitting up and moving around, the flat part of the skull will round out on its own, but don’t wait until then to discuss any concerns you may have with the doctor. As children grow older, their skulls become harder and less malleable, making treatment more difficult.

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Positional Plagiocephaly: What Is It?

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11 comments

  1. LIZ says:

    i was always changing my baby position

  2. Great Mom says:

    thanks for the help

  3. Linda says:

    So since my son was born back in agust he has always skept on each sides of his head evenly but i cant seem to get him to lye on the back of his head, since birth he has al advice on how to fix thisways moved his head positioning it back to the side again. Any ADVICE ? please help on fixing this problem???

  4. Ellen says:

    My four month old has a flat spot and his forehead and cheek protrudes also his ear has moved out of line. I’m quite upset that our child health nurse said nothing was wrong several months ago. The physiotherapist is great but I feel she is trying not to worry me (as I cried at the first session) (I’m an idiot). I’m worried that he will be permanently disfigured :-(. Does anyone have any advice or tips please???!

  5. samantha says:

    Im due in january and have already been reading up on ways to carry baby to help with this

  6. samantha says:

    Luckily my boyfriend is a physical therapist. .. that eases my mind

  7. april says:

    My older twin has this due to the fact that she had low muscle tone in her neck. We have almost corrected it now with doing exactly how this article states, but always check with the doctor to make sure that is what it is please. 🙂

  8. AspenXIzzard says:

    Im shocked my daughter wouldn’t and doesn’t stay still while sleeping. phew!

  9. Marina says:

    Good information

  10. MrsPearson says:

    WOW! Never knew of this, thank you for great information

  11. KaelinRae says:

    A lot of helpful information 🙂

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