When parents start to notice flattening on the back of their baby’s head, many start to worry. While it seems like something very concerning, Baby Flat Head Syndrome or plagiocephaly is very common. Even more important is that it is very easy to treat and the treatments are very safe for your baby.
Dramatic Increase in Plagiocephaly Diagnoses
The prevalence of positional plagiocephaly has increased significantly over the last 20 years. Prior to the Back to Sleep Campaign the prevalence of plagiocephaly was estimated to be 1 in 300. The 1992 AAP Task Force on Infant Positioning and SIDS recommended that infants should be put to sleep on their backs or sides for sleep. This campaign led to an extreme reduction in cases of SIDS. One side impact of this was a spike in the prevalence of plagiocephaly.
How Common is Plagiocephaly?
A lack of research led to inconsistency in the prevalence rates for Baby Flat Head Syndrome. However, the findings of a 2013 study published in the Journal of Pediatrics shed some light. Here’s what they found:
They evaluated data from pediatrician visits of 440 infants between the ages of 7 and 12 weeks. Of the 440 infants assessed, 205 were observed to have some form of plagiocephaly. This means that the incidence of plagiocephaly in this sample was estimated to be 46.6%. After this study, the pediatric community finally realized just how common a plagiocephaly diagnosis has become.
What are the Major Risk Factors for Baby Flat Head Syndrome?
There are a number of factors that can increase an infant’s chances of developing flattening at the back of the head. Some of these include:
- Uterine constraint, commonly caused by maternal age over 35 years, breech position, prolonged labor, and twin or higher-order multiple births
- Lower Head Circumference
- Low birth weight
- Supine or back sleeping
Distribution of Plagiocephaly Diagnoses
Plagiocephaly diagnoses are fairly equally distributed throughout the infant population in the United States with one notable exception. The distribution of plagiocephaly shows that infant males are more likely to develop flattening. The adjusted odds ratio is 1.3. There is no information that speaks to why this is so, but it is noteworthy.
How Effective are Plagiocephaly Treatments?
Fortunately, plagiocephaly treatment is safe and highly effective. While outcomes are impacted by the severity and age of the diagnosis, in most cases Baby Flat Head can be treated successfully with excellent outcomes for families.