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Plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) in babies

Plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) in babies
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It is estimated that 1 in 5 babies develop a flattened head when they're a few months old. In most cases this isn’t a major concern, as it does not have any effect on the brain and the head shape will often improve by itself over time.

There are two main types of Flat Head Syndrome:

  1. Plagiocephaly – the head is flattened on 1 side, causing it to look asymmetrical; the ears may be misaligned, and the head looks like a parallelogram when seen from above, and sometimes the forehead and face may bulge a little on the flat side.
  2. Brachycephaly – the back of the head becomes flattened, causing the head to widen, and occasionally the forehead bulges out.

Causes of Plagiocephaly and Brachycephaly

  1. Spends a lot of time asleep and in the same position
  2. Has tight neck muscles
  3. Does not lie on their tummy enough when they are awake, known as ‘tummy time’
  4. Spends a lot of time in a car seat, making it hard for them to move freely
  5. Was born premature - this means their skull will be softer, and they might not have been able to be moved enough

Preventive Care:

  • By changing the direction their head is turned each night as they sleep. For example, if their head is flattened on the right, you can encourage them to spend more time looking to the left by putting a toy on that side.
  • Always place your baby on their back to sleep as this reduces the risk of cot death.
  • Turn your baby’s cot so that they look to the opposite side to see you
  • Help your baby to prop themselves up by putting their elbows under their shoulders and using a rolled-up towel to help if needed
  • Hold your baby against your shoulder on the opposite to normal
  • Learning any necessary neck stretches for your baby from a physiotherapist
Plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) in babies - HSE.ie
Plagiocephaly and brachycephaly (flat head syndrome) - NHS (www.nhs.uk)