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From the moment we laid eyes on her, our little bundle of joy was perfect. Well, she had some minor issues, but over all, she was perfect. It wasn’t until she was about nine months old, that a family member mentioned that she had noticed our baby’s head was constantly tilted to one side.

As soon as it was pointed out, I could see it, it was obvious; why had we never noticed this? Numerous physiotherapy and specialist appointments later, it was found that our daughter had issues with the muscles in her neck.

Then she was diagnosed with Positional Plagiocephaly or put simply ‘Flat Head Syndrome’. Basically, she had developed a flat spot on one side of her head and then on the other side, her skull was beginning to bulge out. This was a result of her favouring one side to sleep on, which had also affected the muscles in her neck. Physiotherapy was needed to help her neck muscles but her misshapen head would take more work. Because of her age, the plates in her skull had already begun fusing together, so the chances of her having a perfectly symmetrical head were slim.

Through specialists, she had a corrective helmet formed, which would be firm on the side of her head that was protruding, but have space to encourage growth from the flat side. The time spent wearing the helmet would be gradual at first, but by the end of the first week, she would need to be wearing it twenty-three hours a day, and for a time period of four to six months. This terrified me. What would people say? Would people stare at us? Would people laugh? My expectations of what would happen whist we were out in public were not positive and I didn’t take our daughter out for the first week of her wearing her helmet.

When we finally did venture out though, do you know what I discovered? No one laughed or ridiculed my beautiful baby, who was twelve months old by this stage. I think I can count on one hand the amount of times someone looked twice or stared, and that was ok, because we were doing what was best for our daughter and that was all that mattered. What I did experience though, was encouragement after encouragement. I had so many people come up to me when we were out, just to tell me that their child, or grandchild, or niece or nephew had had to wear the same kind of helmet and what a difference it had made to them. These people will never know how much their kind words meant to me, but I was so grateful for them.

We weren’t guaranteed full success in reshaping our daughter’s head because her skull had already begun to fuse and the helmet was simply manipulating the direction of growth, rather than remoulding her head. But after four months of our daughter wearing the helmet, we were so happy with the results. Our daughter is three now and although her head is not perfectly symmetrical, it is very hard to notice any abnormalities, especially with all of her Shirley Temple curls.

Flat head syndrome or Positional Plagiocephaly is an ever-increasing issue today. It is caused from consistent pressure to one spot on a baby’s soft skull. This pressure could come from lying in the same position in their cot or bassinet, or from lying in the same position on their bouncer or play mat. You can help prevent flat head syndrome though, by changing your baby’s position in their cot (changing which end they sleep at) and by changing their focus of attention by moving their cot mobile or something else they may focus on. Also, plenty of supervised tummy time is great for strengthening your baby’s neck muscles. You can speak to your local child health nurse or doctor if you think your baby might be developing a flat spot on their head or if their head looks asymmetrical.

Have you experienced this before? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Image: Supplied

  • I am glad things worked out for your precious bub.

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  • Yes my youngest was diagnosed with Plagiocephaly. We detected it early though and could treat it with Physiotherapy and daily exercises, no helmet was needed.

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  • oh my. My first born used to have a preferential side for placing his head. We had to do neck exercises to get him to turn his head the other way. SO glad we caught it early.

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  • I was always told with my first baby to alternate the side I placed him in his cot, and this is before SIDS, so I placed him left, back, right, and also face down on a breathe able ti-tree pillow so he couldn’t be asphyxiated. The same with my other kids and they loved on their tummies being able to lift themselves up on the arms to look around.
    The way things go around – we’ll probably be told sometime down the track that it’s no longer right to swaddle them so tightly that they cannot move and keep them on their side or back or whatever.
    The times they are a-changing.
    So pleased you were able to correct the problem before it became irreparable, though, and I’m sure your daughter down the track will never be affected by this current problem.
    Bet you thank your family member every day for noticing the problem.

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  • I hope it will help to strengthen your baby’s neck muscles. I am wondering how the end of the cot the baby sleeps in makes a difference. Either way if your baby has reflux you have to raise the head of the cot and “short sheet” the cot. In warm weather once baby is old enough to roll around we have found that baby moves about. Our theory is that the mattress gets warm under their body and they move to a cooler spot on it. I know a few babies that have done this. I have also notice that babies who do it tend to sleep better instead of waking up feeling hot and sweaty, especially their back.

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  • Im the same as mom117410 …I was always told to switch sides that my bubs slept on so their heads would not be misshapen. We were told to have them sleeping on their sides.

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  • I’m so glad you felt you were isolated when managing this. Sometimes people really do shine through. Glad your little one has improved!

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  • I’m so glad the helmet worked and I’m really pleased that no one laughed and everyone was kind

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  • I’m a grandmother and in our days we were always told to change sides for the baby to sleep on. We always knew that you needed to change sides so that the baby didnt get a mis-shapen head. This all changed when mothers were told to always put their babies to sleep on their back.

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  • This is a surprisingly common issue.

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  • I’ve never experienced this. But it’s amazing to see how the helmet was able to help that beautiful little girl!! :-)


    • It is amazing! We were so impressed at how well the helmet worked for our daughter.

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  • My son had issues with muscles in his neck so he had a helmet as well. A lot of people where unsure at first but once they realised what it was for they where very encouraging. My son still has a slight flat spot but you can only notice it if we cut his hair real short.


    • It’s so nice to have encouragement through something that so many people are unsure about. Our daughters head will never be totally symmetrical but with a full head of blonde curls that can’t be noticed and with the aid of the corrective helmet her head is considerably better shaped than it was before.

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  • My two younger sons have flat head at the back and fortunately it’s just an asthetic thing and not related to muscular problems and therefore the docs and specialists at kids hospital advised that medical intervention or helmet would not be used.

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  • I have never heard of this prior to this article. You learn something new every day, especially on this site. You have a beautiful baby girl. All the best.

    Reply

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