What causes positional infant flat spots and how to improve them.
Have you been concerned about a flat spot on the back of your infant’s head? Before boarding a fast-track ride on the worry train, know that flat spots on babies’ heads are fairly common today thanks to back sleeping. Since the American Academy of Pediatrics began to push the “Back to Sleep” campaign back in 1992, an increase in the number of “positional” skull deformities has occurred. These flat spots may develop as a result of the baby resting his head in the same place (a car seat, crib, carrier, etc.) on a continual basis. In many cases, the problem is only cosmetic and will not impact your baby’s brain growth or development, but it is still always best to consult your pediatrician if you are concerned.
If your baby’s pediatrician has assured you that your baby’s head shape is nothing more than a positional head shape abnormality, you can follow the following safe sleep guidelines, issued by the AAP, as well as some other tips on how to help your baby’s flat spot to shape out.
Offer plenty of tummy time. Your baby needs time on his stomach when he is awake (and you are available to keep an eye on him). Always supervise tummy time sessions as babies can fall asleep in this position, which can increase the risk of SIDS. Tummy time helps to prevent flat spots and also increases upper body muscles necessary for pulling up and crawling.
Back to sleep. Keep your baby on his back to sleep rather than on his tummy or side for naps and bedtime. The AAP asserts that putting babies to sleep only on their backs is the greatest way of reducing the risk of SIDS in infants.
Vary sleeping positions. You can alternate which side you turn your baby’s head to when you lay him down for sleep. It is also a good idea to change up which side of the crib you lay her head on (so her head is occasionally positioned in the crib where her feet usually are) because many babies prefer to face the direction of the room where most of the action is and, therefore, often turn their heads mainly in that direction.
Limit time spent in baby seats. Abstain from allowing your baby to sit in his car seat if he is not riding in a vehicle. Infant car seats can cause flat spots on babies’ soft skulls just as sleeping on their backs can. The same applies to strollers, bouncy seats, swings, and carriers where your little one’s head rests against the back. Strive to vary your baby’s position throughout the day and, of course, include plenty of cuddle time!
Follow up with your pediatrician. Many pediatricians will recommend adjustments or exercises to help strengthen your baby’s neck muscles if they discover positional flattening to a baby’s head. Flattening often improves within a few months of the implementation of exercises. It is best to follow up with your pediatrician to ensure the exercises are making a difference. If not, you may be referred to a specialist to determine if further treatment is required, such as a skull-molding helmet.
- Olivia, mom & a pediatric nurse
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