September 3, 2008

DTQ: How Flat Was Your Kid's Head Before You Did Anything About It?

Because K2's got this flat spot on the back of her head, and it's kind of bugging me out. It started early; she'd almost always turn her head to the right when we'd lay her down; and while we'd always make sure she had a full range of motion in her neck, and we'd turn her head to the left sometimes while she slept--minor/insignificant solutions at best--it hasn't really had any effect. We figured that spending more time on her stomach and sitting up would lessen or diminish the flat spot, but it hasn't.

It's not really that noticeable; my wife spent a few weeks not believing it was there at all, and she did most of the baths, when K2's hair was wet enough to really see it. On our last visit to the pediatrician, our normal doctor wasn't in, and his dimwitted partner couldn't understand what I was talking about until I pointed it out, and then she just said, "Oh. Go see the neurosurgeon."

So how flat was your kid's head, and what'd you do about it? I'm not opposed to the kid rocking a plagiocephaly helmet, as long as it's painted awesomely enough and doesn't have freakin' mermaid stickers all over it. But even writing about helmets in the abstract [and three years ago, though as the comments on that post show, it's very much a live discussion], I find myself at a loss for what, if anything, to do.

15 Comments

When our son was ~3 months we found that he would always have his head turned to the right side when lying or "sitting" in a bouncy seat. We were freaked out after a while and went to the pediatrician who basically told us to stop worrying. We ended up rotating him 180 degrees when we put him in the crib so that his head was at the opposite end. Turns out all the the interesting stuff was to his right. Rotating him around got him to start turning his head to the left.

Just started seeing our 2 month old daughter developing a similar tendency so we tried the putting her in the crib the other way. No news to report yet.

Both our kids had flat spots; the first one much more than the second. I remember with the first, she'd always sleep with her head to the left and at around 3 months I noticed the flatness on the back of her head and a slight protruding on the right side of her forehead. My wife was in denial, and I had to really, really push to get us to see a specialist (a neurosurgeon) at about 8 months. This guy was great. He thoroughly looked at our little girl's head, said she had a moderate case of positional plagiocephaly, and then told both me and my wife that she'd be just fine. He said that both of his kids had flat spots as babies, but through repositioning, they've rounded out beautifully. He even said that when he gave his four-year old baths, he could still see some flatness, but it was rounding out perfectly. Mainly, he told us to reposition our daughter whenever we see her laying with her head to the left. In addition, because she was so apt to turn her head to the left, she had developed a mild case of torticollis that prevented the full range of motion in her neck muscles, so it was actually more difficult for her to turn her head to the right. So some light neck stretching exercises were suggested. However, the main thing that he said was that the reason we're so concerned is that we can really see the flatness due to our baby's lack of hair. When she starts getting a full head of hair and as soon as she becomes more active and is rolling over, the flatness would start going away. And it did. Our now almost five-year old's head show's almost no flatness. If I look closely, I can still see a little asymmetry, but it gets less every day.

As for the repositioning, what we did was just try to lay her down so her head was facing the opposite way that she favored. In addition, we also read about getting some sort of postioner for her that would help keep her positioned better when she slept. However, this was four years ago, when it was still okay to give kids cough medicine, so I'm not sure positioners are in favor any longer. They sure worked great for us. Also, I made this neat little nest out of memory foam for her head for the car seat so that she would have some soft cradling while in the car.

I can totally relate to your feelings. Talking to an expert, though, made me feel so much better.

We were a bit worried, cuz our kid's a little on the flat side in back, too. But the doctor/NP never said anything, so we kept it to ourselves. Once we saw a kid that really had an issue (you could use that melon for a straight-edge!) we realized what "flat head" really means. Haven't given it much thought since.

-g

Why not take her to the doctor you trust and see if a consult with the neurosurgeon is indicated?

If the partner's response was as off-hand as you imply, the discussion didn't last long enough, and it's one that would be better had with someone for whom you have some respect. Then you can move on to the specialist, if it's really indicated.

My son's head was flat enough that other people occasionally commented on it. I asked the doctor about it once, and she said to try repositioning him and to "wait and see"

He really liked to sleep fat on his back in the crib and didn't move around much, so I started to occasionally let him sleep in his carseat or in my arms. Other than that we did no other intervention.

He is 3 now & his head looks normal ;)

Our son, like your K2, has/had the same thing. In the end we just let nature take its course. After consulting his Doc and having been reassured it would have no impact what-so-ever on his health we let him be. And having done that, I'm glad we did. I'm not passing judgment on other parents, I'm sure their reasons for acting on "correcting" a flat spot is as valid as ours for not acting. In the end we realized because there was no health ramifications, the only reason we would try to make his head rounder was so that we and society in general would be more comfortable with the shape of his head; and that isn't how we wanted to raise him. We want him to grow up accepting who and how he is and valuing diversity be it his own uniqueness or other's differences. I guess the only potential drawback would be later on in life if other kids (or even adults) would notice and teased him about it it may make him self conscious. We figured if that were to ever happen, we would use it as an opportunity to teach him how to treat other people who were "different" with kindness and courtesy and to help him learn about the true meaning of self-worth.

In France we have a special heart shaped pillow with a hole in the center so the baby's head doesn't touch the mattress all the time and the "flat head" is not a deal... it's only like 15 euros!!! My daughter had two of them, one for the Bugaboo and one for her bed and believe me, her head is just perfect. It's called "Lovenest" from Babymoov.

My daughter, who I think is very close in age to your K2, had more of a bump on one side than a flat spot. We kept telling the pediatrician we were concerned about her head shape. She kept telling us to just keep an eye on it. Finally she got how seriously we were freaking about it and she explained something to us. Helmets are for kids with asymmetrical misshaped heads. She said the only time she would get concerned is if her face was getting deformed because of it. So, if the flat spot is pushing the rest of her skull so that, for example, one ear was moved forward. We calmed down and her head is looking better, but not perfect yet.

There's a scene in the movie Paternity where Elizabeth Ashley is telling Beverly D'Angelo that after her first child she was worried about her baby's head being really flat. The doctor told her not to worry about it, he'd grow out of it. She asked the doctor how he knew that & he said "because he'd never seen a grown-up person with a head like that."

I've always considered that very good advice.

My son (now 2 1/2) was getting a little bit of a flat spot, and like some of the other posters, we ended up turning him around in his crib- in fact, after a while, we even moved the crib to a different wall! That was all it took- he just wanted to look at something other than the wall, so we moved him (and his crib) around until he started really roaming in the crib on his own. Solved the problem. Best of luck with K2!

I'm sorry, but I have to disagree with most of these comments. As the mom of a child with mild plagio at the age of 4, I can assure you that it is a big deal. My biggest mistake, and I'm living with the guilt to this day, was listening to the pediatrician telling me that it 'would correct itself' as she grew. you have a very small window of time to correct this problem, do something NOW. I had bad advice ('she is not a helmet baby', they told me) and didn't follow my instincts. So for the past 3 years I've been schlepping her from physical therapy to crainal sacral therapy and now cranial osteopathy. she is beautiful and healthy, and i'm thankful for that, but i know how cruel kids can be...i'm worried for when she is older. Do yourself a favor...be proactive now. I wish someone had told me...good luck.

We noticed a flat spot on the back of our son's head at about 2 months. Our pediatrician recommended some exercises and repositioning techniques, similar to what others have described. After a month or so she felt it was worse rather than better, so we were referred to a pediatric neurosurgeon, who recommended a cranial orthotic in order to prevent the plagiocephaly from getting worse and having an impact on the formation of his facial bones.

My wife and I debated about whether or not we would get the helmet or not. In the end we decided that if the head of neurosurgery at a world-class children's hospital was recommending it, we should follow his advice.

Our son has now been wearing the helmet for a little about six weeks and we have seen measured improvement, particularly in the symmetrical shape of his head.

He does get quite hot, and we do have to take it off to clean it and clean his head regularly. I think that it has affected his sleep a bit--though having a very loud sister might also have its affects :-)

Overall, we're happy with our decision and feel that it was right for us and our son.

The following may be of interest
http://www.plagiocephaly.info/resources/pdf/Yu_etal2004.pdf
Also the older plagiocephaly group, where those in their twenties are looking for any help.

I have been feeling so guilty about my six-month old son's flat head. Thank you for putting so eloguently in words how I feel. I pray his head will improve in time. My husband and I just couldn't bare to see him in a helmet to "correct" the problem. My biggest fear is also that he will be teased by other children. I, too, will take the opportunity to teach him to walk with his head held up high.

Hi Tina! I am experiencing the same problem with my daughter. i noticed you mentioned therapies. are they helping? my daughter is two years old, and i feel like there is nothing we can do.

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