The bones that make up a baby’s skull are thin and flexible. Constant pressure in one area of the skull can alter its shape, which is called plagiocephaly (skull molding), which is one of the most common forms of an abnormal head shape.
Many babies spend almost all of their time on their backs. Safe sleeping guidelines call for baby to sleep on his or her back. Car seats, strollers and other carries often also position babies on their backs. Babies with plagiocephaly often have noticeable flatness on the backs or sides of their head, and there is commonly little hair in those areas.
In other cases, your child may have a tight neck muscle causing a persistent twist of the neck to one side (torticollis). As your child lies down, one area of the head is consistently pressed against the bed surface and the area flattens.
Treating an infant with plagiocephaly starts with encouraging parents to reposition their baby onto its side or stomach to relieve pressure on the side or back of the head.
Infants with torticollis require dedicated physical therapy to stretch and straighten the neck. Through successful treatment of the torticollis, the head flattening usually improves.
In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe a special helmet that helps distribute pressure around the baby’s entire head. That distribution of pressure helps prevent further flattening and promotes growth to a more rounded head shape. Ideally, helmet treatment is started at 6 months of age and is continued for at least 4months.
Early intervention in the treatment of plagiocephaly is recommended to achieve the best results.