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What is Plagiocephaly and how does it happen?

Plagiocephaly or baby flat head syndrome is a common, treatable condition where the back of a babied head takes on a flattened shape due to a number of causes. While there are several risk factors such as twin or multiples birth, low birth weight, and premature birth, the most common cause is back sleeping.

Since the introduction of the “Back To Sleep Campaign” in the 1990s (now referred to as the “Safe to Sleep Campaign”), the prevalence of plagiocephaly has increased more than 5 times. This important movement protected infants from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) but did lead to the unexpected consequence of a rising number of babies with flattening of the back of the head.

In this article, we will take a look at what plagiocephaly is, how it happens, and how it can be treated.

What is Plagiocephaly?

Baby flat head or positional plagiocephaly is when a baby experiences abnormal flattening at the back of the head. It can range from very mild flattening to more severe cases. In some cases, parents may notice that the position of the baby’s ears may appear slightly out of place.

Plagiocephaly includes positional plagiocephaly (where one side of the skull appears flattened) as well as brachycephaly (where both sides become flattened). The condition tends to happen during the first few months of life when babies spend most of their time on their backs.

Risk Factors for Plagiocephaly

There are a number of potential risk factors for developing flattening of the back of the head. Research has shown that there are several risk factors, including lower head circumference, twins or multiples pregnancy, advanced maternal age, lower birth weight, and back sleeping.

The vast majority of infants who develop plagiocephaly or brachycephaly do so because of consistently laying on their backs. Supine or back sleeping is a protective measure to help minimize the risk of SIDS. This important step is critical in keeping babies safe, it can lead to head flattening.

How does Plagiocephaly happen?

Over time, as a baby spends a considerable amount of time laying on their back, they tend to have a preference for which side they prefer to lay on. This extra pressure on one side of the head can lead to this misshapen appearance. Because the baby’s skull is very soft at birth, it can easily take on a flattened shape in a short period.

It’s important to note that plagiocephaly is not the parent’s fault. Putting your baby to sleep on their back is the safest option and even with repositioning and tummy time, it can still happen.

Is Plagiocephaly Treatable?

Fortunately, plagiocephaly is very common and very easy to treat. In very mild cases of baby flat head, repositioning and tummy time might be enough to help the head reshape. In cases of moderate to severe flattening, helmet therapy or cranial remolding is a simple and effective way to reshape your baby’s head.

Baby flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly has been on the rise for the past several years. Some studies suggest that almost half of all babies in the United States experience some degree of flattening in their infancy.

Plagiocephaly is a common condition that can be treated quickly and easily.

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