Does my baby need a head-shaping helmet?

Cute newborn little boy sleeping in a white round crib

In 1990, about 5,280 infants died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In 1994, the American Academy of Pediatrics rolled out the “Back to Sleep” campaign. This encouraged parents and caregivers to put babies to sleep on their backs on a firm mattress, without blankets, bumper pads or pillows, to allow unobstructed flow of oxygen to Baby’s nose and mouth. Since then, the rate of SIDS has continued to decline, with about 1,600 SIDS deaths in 2015.

With this joyous news comes a new challenge – Flat Head Syndrome (FHS) or Positional Plagiocephaly.

Your infant’s skull is very soft when she is born, allowing for easier passage through the birth canal and astonishing brain growth in the first year of her life. Because of this, her head is easily molded by her environment.

Laying on his back is not the only way your child may get a lasting flat spot, but it is the most common. Sometimes, FHS begins in the womb if a baby is wedged against mom’s pelvis, or if there are twins. Torticollis, tight neck muscles, can also contribute to or be caused by FHS.

Your Alzein Pediatric Associates medical professional will monitor any uneven shaping of your child’s head throughout the first year of regular well-baby visits. If you have any concerns, our staff will be sure to answer thoroughly. FHS does not stunt your child’s brain growth or cause brain damage or any developmental delays. 

Treatment begins with moderate intervention, such as

  • Changing the position of your baby’s head while she sleeps to move the flattened side of the head away from the sleeping surface.
  • Changing the position of your baby in the crib, placing her feet where her head normally rests, so she must turn her head the other way to see into the room.
  • Hold your baby as much as possible, to avoid contact with flat surfaces in car seats, bouncy seats, swings, strollers and play yards.
  • Tummy time is vital! Get in the habit early in your child’s life of putting him on his stomach while supervised. This helps strengthen neck muscles and the muscles needed for sitting up and eventually crawling while encouraging learning!

If your infant’s FHS is severe, possibly affecting the shape of her face, we may prescribe a custom-molded helmet or headband to reshape your child’s head. These devices work best between the ages of 4 months and a year, as your child’s bones are still soft and growing quickly.

Do not purchase a helmet or headband that has not been prescribed by a medical doctor! Very few babies will need a device to reshape FHS.

Once your child can sit up by himself, the flat spot will, over years, slowly improve. There may be some lasting unevenness, but thickening hair and a larger face as your child grows will make it barely noticeable.

If you have questions about preventing FHS, or are concerned your child may need intervention, please call our office at 708-424-7600 or visit alzeinpeds.com and click “Book An Appointment”. We are here to listen and to help!