Flat Head Syndrome Prevention
This condition, also known as plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) can be distressing for parents but it’s easily avoided.
It started with Sudden Infant Death syndrome. Since then, Health Authorities worldwide have recommended that parents should put their babies to sleep on their back. It is also our recommendation that your baby only SLEEPS on the back. However, in the hours that your baby is AWAKE, you should allow your baby to lie on the stomach, on the side or, in your arms. This is important because not only does this reduces the length of time that your baby is lying on his/her back; it also stimulates your newborn to strengthen his/her neck, spine and motor coordination.
So what are the statistics for Flat head syndrome?
Positional plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) is a relatively common condition, with an estimated prevalence between 10-30%. Studies have demonstrated that risk factors associated with the development of Plagiocephaly after birth include:
- Male gender
- First born babies
- Multiple births
- Positional preference (baby’s head to one side during sleep/changing)
- Babies who have a difficult or assisted delivery (eg forceps or vacuum extraction)
- Limited neck rotation at birth
- Only bottle feeding & positioning baby to same side when bottle-feeding
- Lack of supervised tummy time when awake: < 3 times per day
- Slow achievement of motor milestones
- >20hrs spent on back both awake and asleep
Adapted from the Sid and Kids information sheet at www.sidsandkids.org
The good news is that there are many things that you can do to help prevent flat head syndrome with your baby. Research has shown that “For the majority of children, positional plagiocephaly is a preventable condition. Flat head syndrome may be prevented or treated by simple repositioning techniques and by minimising pressure on the head when baby is awake.”1
While it can be extremely distressing for parents, flat head syndrome is mainly a cosmetic problem. What’s more it can be avoided if you are aware of the condition and you support your baby when it is small.
Avoiding Flat head syndrome – some key things you can do:
- As the baby gains head control and a full range of neck motion – this will enable the child to change head positions on their own. So Tummy time is important. The Ultimate Sleep breastfeeding pillow also doubles up by offering support for baby during tummy time, and encourages head and neck development, either on their tummy or when they are learning to sit.
- From birth, give baby increasing amounts of side lying and tummy time to play on a firm surface when awake and being observed by an adult but never put baby on the side or tummy to sleep. Alternate the holding position when feeding baby i.e. hold in left arm for one feed and the right arm for the next feed. The Ultimate Sleep Breastfeeding pillow allows you to support your baby, whilst giving you the best ergonomic support.
- “Devices that restrict the movement of a baby or the baby’s head are not recommended.” A mattress or a form of head support provides the firm support for head, neck and spine together with cradling and supporting soft baby heads without restricting their movement.
- “It is recommended that you avoid prolonged periods in car seats, strollers, swings and bouncers as this places additional pressure on the back of the head”1 This is consistent because many of the surfaces mentioned do not have adequate support for soft baby heads. A mattress that is portable, and can be used to support your baby’s soft head may reduce the pressure and provide the necessary support.