It’s really common for a baby to have flat head syndrome, as it’s known to doctors. In fact, it affects a massive 20% of babies. And while “it’s really common,” might not be enough to stop you from worrying, the good news is that it doesn’t hurt, and it will sort itself out over time, often without any intervention at all.
So take a breath, mama, and let’s have a look at what’s going on.
In this article 📝
- What is flat head syndrome in babies?
- What causes a flat head in a baby?
- When should I be concerned about my baby’s flat head?
- How do I fix my baby’s flat head?
What is flat head syndrome in babies?
Babies sleep a lot. And when they’re sleeping, they’re usually lying down on their backs. Enter, flat head syndrome, where a slightly flattened area develops at the point where they usually rest their head.
There are two types of flat head syndrome:
- Plagiocephaly - when the head is flattened on one side.
- Brachycephaly - when the back of the head is flattened.
While both forms can look a little concerning, they usually aren’t. Neither will have any effect on your baby’s health, they won’t hurt, and they’ll improve as your baby grows.
What causes a flat head in a baby?
When babies are young, their heads are still relatively soft. The bones that make up the skull take time to join and strengthen. That means that it doesn’t take a lot of steady pressure to change the shape of their head.
Some of the most common causes of a flat head include:
- Sleeping on their back
- Premature birth because babies born preterm tend to have softer skulls.
- Problems in the womb because pressure on their skull in the womb can also lead to plagiocephaly or brachycephaly.
- Developmental differences. We mention this to cover all the bases, but these are really rare. Conditions like craniosynostosis can be a cause of differently shaped heads in babies.
When should I be concerned about my baby’s flat head?
Wondering when to worry about a baby’s flat head? If you’re at all concerned, talk to a doctor. They’ll take a look at your baby and either reassure you that there’s nothing to worry about, or they may discuss the options to help “correct” the flat area.
When is it too late to correct a flat head? If you notice your baby has a flat head, getting it checked early is recommended. Doctors will then be able to keep an eye on any changes to decide the best course of action.
Remember, though: your baby’s head shape will almost always return to normal. Their skull just has to strengthen, which it will as they grow and get more mobile.
How do I fix my baby’s flat head?
As well as asking how to avoid a flat head, or how to prevent a baby from getting a flat head, parents want to know how to “fix” the problem.
The easiest way to do this is to make sure that they don’t sleep in the same position every day. However, since it’s safest for your baby to sleep on their back and they may just prefer to have their head on one side, here are some more things you can do to help:
- Tummy time. It’s great for their neck muscles too.
- Changing sleep locations. Maybe they could take some of their naps in a sling or the stroller.
- Alternating sides. Even changing sides during feeds can help.
- Move toys and mobiles. This gives your baby an incentive to change position.
And what about baby helmets? There are hats, headbands, and helmets that claim to reshape a baby’s head. The downside is that they’re expensive, and there’s not much evidence that they work better than waiting for a baby to outgrow flat head syndrome.
👶 More from The 411:
13 Pieces of Advice That New Moms Need to Hear
Cradle Cap: Causes and Treatment
How to Calm a Crying Baby
Newborn Temperature Guide
Why Do Babies Wear Helmets?
6 Signs of a Concussion in Babies
Baby Bumped Head: What to Do
Bow Legged Baby? Everything You Need to Know