Plagiocephaly

Flat Head Syndrome (Plagiocephaly) In Babies

Flat Head Syndrome can consist of three different types of disabilities, these are known as Plagiocephaly, Brachycephaly and Scaphocephaly. These 3 disabilities all include a baby's head becoming misshapen or flat. They are frequently grouped together and referred to as “Flat Head Syndrome”.

“Positional Plagiocephaly”, is the most common type of misshapen head, and more importantly it is usually preventable!


The Causes Of Positional Plagiocephaly In Babies

According to NHS data, the likelihood of flat head syndrome occurring is higher for twins and multiple births. As well as Premature babies or children who went through a traumatic labour process.

Other common causes of a flat spot in babies' heads can occur more naturally. These are as follows: 

  1. Back-Sleeping Pressure:
    Babies staying in the same supine position for prolonged periods is one of the main causes for the appearance of these deformities.
    Constant pressure asserted between specific areas of the baby’s head against the firm, flat mattress could flatten or misshape the relatively soft young baby’s skull bones. 

  2. Congenital Muscular Torticollis (CMT) or Wryneck:
    This condition, which often develops in the first 2-4 weeks after birth, is where neck muscles develop tightness, causing the head to tilt and/or turn to one side.
    Limited head movement results from this tightness of neck muscles, making this group of infants most at risk for the development of flat head syndrome. 

Occasionally, a flat spot or a flattened head can be caused by the plates of the skull fusing together too prematurely. This is called congenital plagiocephaly or more commonly known as craniosynostosis. Luckily this is a very rare condition that only occurs in about 1 in every 2500 births, so most of the time there will be another reason for your child's flathead.

What Parents Can Do To Prevent Deformational Plagiocephaly? 

We recommend three simple treatment options that can help to prevent and support flat head syndrome in a safe way.

  1. Remove pressure:
    Removing pressure off the flattened part of your baby's head as much as possible. Parents are encouraged to carry their baby as much as possible using a sling or baby carrier and also introduce regular ‘Tummy-Time’. This helps to remove the pressure from the flattened side of the skull, and is also great for training the muscles your baby needs to sit up and crawl.

  2. Alter the pressure points:
    Some babies have a preferable side that they sleep on naturally, in which case the parent may have to intervene and change the position of their baby. This technique is called supervised repositioning.
    In order to take the pressure away from the flattened sides, parents are encouraged to change their baby’s sleeping position, to move any pressure to the alternate side of the head, using positioning aids. These are things like Tortle Beanies, or toys to attract the attention of the baby to turn to the other side.
    If your baby has difficulty turning their head due to Torticollis, we encourage seeing a physiotherapist, Osteopath or Chiropractor that may help to loosen and strengthen their neck muscles. 

  3. Distribute the pressure:
    A specially designed flathead pillow can be used to distribute the weight of a baby's head over a larger area so less pressure is placed on a particular point of their skull while the baby is lying on their back.
    Mimos pillow is a European CE approved class I medical device. This patented pressure distribution device is made of 3D spacer fabric that has been tested for anti-suffocation or CO2 rebreathing safety. It is the only baby pillow in the market you can trust for its clinical efficacy and breathable safety. Perfect for avoiding flat head syndrome, whilst also ensuring your child can sleep safely in their cot.

These natural techniques are much recommended for mild and moderate cases compared to the controversial helmets and headbands treatment that cost more than £2000 and can come with adverse effects.

View products that can help to remove, alter and/or distribute pressure that causes plagiocephaly.

If your baby is diagnosed with Craniosynostosis, corrective surgery may be needed.

 

Head Shape Deformity or Plagiocephaly FAQs

This depends on the age of your baby, and severity of their condition. Please visit our resources page to download the free severity chart and watch the video on how to measure and monitor progress with Craniometer – the head deformity measuring tool.

One size does not fit all. Different sizes are required in order to support different head circumference and neck support areas. Different sizes for each product are available depending on your baby’s age and head circumference.

Please go to the product’s page, and click on the size information tab to choose the right size for your baby. Head circumference information can normally be obtained from your doctor or health visitor (personal child health record – red book). If no recent head circumference record is available, you can do the measurement yourself, rather easily with some measuring tape. 

Yes, if you would like to know more then please visit our resources page to download the clinical studies and testimonials from parents and healthcare professionals around the world.

We recommend all the natural techniques such as tummy-time, which is great for playing while the baby is awake, supervised repositioning in the day time, and pressure distribution pillow while the baby is laying on their back. If torticollis is involved, please get a referral for paediatric physiotherapy.

Research shows all these techniques are effective and the combination of these techniques result in the best outcomes.

Not always. The standard recommendation from the NHS is that a flat head is just a cosmetic problem and can either recover itself or be hidden by a baby’s hair as the baby grows older. Flattening will stop progressing once your baby is at a certain age and the subsequent head growth may visually improve, however residual flattening and facial asymmetry can persist well into adulthood.

Recent studies published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) suggest that only 25% - 75% of babies with Flat Head Syndrome see their skull recover by itself. 75% of infants in the study continue to have some degree of positional skull deformities at two years of age. 

The authors also stated that:

“Skull deformation does not completely resolve in all cases by natural course, and helmet therapy does not seem to have an added value for recovery. Therefore, we emphasise the importance of prevention, early detection, and early treatment with paediatric physiotherapy of skull deformation.”