Flat head syndrome in babies – Case Study 7.
Leo was brought into see me when he was eight weeks old because his mum had noticed that the right side of his head was flattening and that he always seemed to hold his head on the right when he was asleep or in his car seat.
Leo’s birth had been fairly straight forward but he had been breech (head under the Mum’s ribs and bottom down in Mum’s pelvis) until 37 weeks, until he turned to be head down.
At birth Leo’s head shape had seemed fine but as he had grown Mum had realised it was getting progressively flatter, she was concerned, so she brought him in to see the Cranial Osteopath.
After a thorough examination by the Osteopath, it was apparent that the right side of his head was indeed slightly flatter, he was reluctant to turn his head to the left, although he would do it with encouragement and his body also appeared “banana” shaped – he was bending over to the left.
The head is made up of over 26 bones and small amounts of movement occur between them, especially in babies, as their heads are so soft
The Osteopath felt that some of the bones in the head may have become a bit squashed under Mum’s ribs, when he was breech and that Leo had been stuck with his head and body in a certain position, which had now become a habit. As a result Leo’s neck had become a little stiff when turning to the right. Also as the head flattens gravity makes it easier to roll onto the flat spot, increasing the tendency to lie on it, a vicious cycle.
The Cranial Osteopath used very gentle pressures to balance the movement between these bones, which had been compressed when Leo had been breech in the pregnancy.
Mum was also given advice about exercises/games to encourage Leo to turn to the right more and about supervised tummy time to take pressure off the back of his head.
After four treatments there was a good change to Leo’s head shape and they decided it would be best to see him periodically, up to the age of one, to maintain the improvement through growth spurts, which can tighten the joints in the head.
Flat head syndrome fact file:
It’s correct name is plagiocephaly (flattening of a certain part of the head) or brachiocepahly (flattening across both sides of the back of the head)
- Reduced amniotic fluid in pregnancy
- Multiple births
- Baby in an unusual position during the pregnancy e.g breech
- Deliveries involving forceps/ventouse (suction cup)
- Babies with big heads, compared to Mum’s pelvis
- Premature babies
- Torticollis (shortened neck muscle on one side)
- Not enough SUPERVISED tummy time, when babies are awake (never leave your baby to sleep/unattended awake on its tummy)
- Bottle feeding the baby on the same side for every feed
- Try to encourage tummy time – as long as you are with your baby & they are awake
- If bottle feeding then try to change sides each time to mimic breast feeds
- If your baby prefers turning to one side play with them and talk to them on the opposite side. Turn the cot/mosses basket around so that you/toys/the light source is on the side they don’t like turning to. This should encourage them to look to that side more
- Gently reposition your baby’s head away from the flat spot when they are asleep
Following the above advice for 4-6 weeks you should start to see improvement, if you don’t then further help such as cranial osteopath or physiotherpay may be helpful.
If your baby seems uncomfortable/in pain when you move their head then consult a doctor to rule out problems with the neck, such as torticollis.
In rare cases a flat head can be caused by a condition called craniosynostosis – where the skull starts to fuse early. Signs of this include the baby’s head becoming progressively flatter, feeling significant ridges on the baby’s head (heads are generally a bit lumpy and bumpy & most of the time it’s normal) or the head seems small/doesn’t seem to be growing at the same rate as the rest of your baby (they should record head size in your red book or you can request to have it measured). If you are concerned about this then please consult with your G.P.
We provide information sheets on flat head syndrome and prevention in babies, so please fill in the contact us form on this site and we will happily forward you one.
Picture Reference: www.dublinosteopath.ie