That was my first thought. How can I fix the issue if I don’t even know what it is or how to say it? So here’s how I understand it – in a super non-medical, easy to understand way.
Plagiocephaly – or “Flat Head Syndrome” is very common. Since the “Back To Sleep ” campaign started, it has become more common. It affects almost 1 in every 2 babies (about 47%). The most common is Positional Plagiocephaly – meaning that their head is flat in one spot due to the position they prefer to lay in. Normally babies develop Plagiocephaly because they spend too much time in one position. However, other factors could contribute to this as well, such as multiples or how the baby was in the mom’s uterus.
Brachycephaly – is a type of Plagiocephaly and is when the entire back of the baby’s head is flat and the head is very wide. The forehead is often bossed or prominent on both sides, and the height of the head is excessively high. Brachycephaly without asymmetry accounts for about 1 in 10 of the children. A pattern of routinely sleeping on the back can cause brachycephaly. The head can flatten uniformly which results in a wider and shorter shape. Asymmetrical Brachycephaly is a type of Brachycephaly where the head is both wide and asymmetrical. This is the second most common type of deformity.
Torticollis – is the tightening of one or both of the main neck muscles which causes the baby to turn and/or tilt the head in only one position. This causes flattening of the same side of the head. Torticollis is often associated with Deformational Plagiocephaly since the baby cannot comfortably lie in all positions. Usually, treatment with Physical Therapy and a home exercise program as soon as possible is necessary.
RAD did not have Torticollis. He had great range of motion in his neck. He did, however, sleep through the night at a month old, and for 6-8 hours, and by 2 months he would sleep 12 hours a night. A blessing, but also a big part of why he developed Brachycephaly. He also HATED tummy time. I mean, this boy could SCREAM. He would roll right back over as soon as he was on his tummy.
It is also worth mentioning about Craniosynostosis. This is when the plates in the babies skull start fusing together prematurely. When this happens, it causes the skull to expand in the direction of the open sutures, causing an abnormal head shape. In severe cases, this condition can also cause increased pressure on the growing brain. There are 4 different types of Craniosynostosis, based on which sutures start closing together. I won’t go into all the different types, but there are several clues that may have caused you or your doctor to suspect that your child has Craniosynostosis. A misshapen head is usually the first clue. The soft spot, may or may not be open. This is why we were sent to a neurologist. Our pedi could not feel RAD’s soft spot, which alerted him to possible Craniosynostosis. At this time, his neurologist doesn’t suspect any issues since he is still developing and his head is growing proportionately. We will have a follow-up in December to make sure he’s still progressing.
Hopefully this helps make these words not quite so scary. I know I was scared when we first heard them. But once you understand that basically, your baby just has a flat head, it makes it not so scary.
What’s most important is that you know that your baby’s flat head is in no way your fault. And is absolutely did not happen because you “did not hold your baby enough.” That is one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard so far in our helmet journey.
Rock on Helmet Mamas (and Dads)! You got this!