As a new parent, you may be concerned if you notice that your baby’s head seems to be misshapen or flattened. While it can be a source of anxiety, it’s essential to understand that this condition is relatively common and treatable. The medical term for this condition is plagiocephaly.
What is Plagiocephaly?
Plagiocephaly is a condition where a baby’s head becomes misshapen or flattened, typically occurring in the first few months of life. The most common type of plagiocephaly is positional plagiocephaly, which is caused by external forces applied to the head, such as the baby sleeping in the same position for long periods, or the baby's head being in contact with a flat surface like a car seat, bouncer, or swing. Less commonly, plagiocephaly can occur due to premature closure of the skull bones (craniosynostosis) or neurological issues.
What Causes Positional Plagiocephaly?
Positional plagiocephaly is caused by external forces on the baby’s skull. These forces can be due to several factors, including:
Sleeping position: Putting the baby to sleep on one side or their back for extended periods can result in flattening of the head.
Time spent in devices: Frequent use of devices such as car seats, bouncers, swings, or carriers that keep the baby's head in one position for long periods can contribute to flattening.
Restricted movement: Babies who have limited mobility, such as those with developmental delays or muscle weakness, may be more likely to develop plagiocephaly.
How is Plagiocephaly Diagnosed?
A pediatrician can diagnose plagiocephaly by examining the baby's head during a routine check-up. They may also measure the baby's head circumference to track growth and development. In some cases, your pediatrician may refer you to a specialist, such as a pediatric neurosurgeon or a craniofacial specialist, for further evaluation.
Can Plagiocephaly Be Treated?
In most cases, positional plagiocephaly can be corrected without surgery. Treatment options may include repositioning techniques, physical therapy, or the use of a specially designed helmet to help redirect the growth of the head. In severe cases or those caused by craniosynostosis or other underlying medical conditions, surgery may be necessary.
How can I prevent plagiocephaly?
Prevention is the best approach for plagiocephaly. You can take the following steps to reduce the risk of your baby developing positional plagiocephaly:
Tummy time: Encourage your baby to spend time on their tummy while they are awake and supervised to promote neck strength and reduce the time spent with the head in one position.
Repositioning: Avoid keeping your baby in the same position for long periods. Reposition their head frequently during the day while they are awake and monitor their sleeping position, alternating the head's side.
Limit time spent in devices: Try to limit the time your baby spends in devices such as car seats, bouncers, swings, or carriers that keep the baby's head in one position.
In conclusion, plagiocephaly is a common and treatable condition in infants. While it can cause concern, it's essential to know that it usually corrects itself over time, and treatment is available in more severe cases. If you notice that your baby's head shape seems to be flattened or misshapen, speak with your pediatrician, who can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment. Remember, prevention is the best approach, and you can take steps to reduce the risk of your baby developing plagiocephaly.