10 TOP TIPS to prevent flat head syndrome.
Flat Head Syndrome is the misshaping of a baby’s head and It effects nearly half of the babies born in the UK. There are different causes such as:
- Spending prolonged time on their backs.
- Intra-uterine position, sometimes mother has some pre-existing restrictions in her body and this makes the baby need of adapt his/her posture. Of course, this gets a bit more complicated when there is a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets), they will need to adapt their postures to fit in the space.
- Some labours are long and very traumatic both for the mother and also for the baby, and this can have an impact not only on the shape head of the baby but also in the rest of the spine, shoulders, pelvis etc. This may leave them in a specific compensatory pattern, with preference of the neck to lie to one side or settle in an awkward posture of the general body when they are laying down.
- Cranyosinostosis is an early closure of the baby’s skull suture, affecting an estimated 1 in every 1800 to 3000 children. Three out of every four cases affect boys. At birth this may not be apparent but soon as the baby is growing will show, it is important to differentiate between a plagiocephaly and a craniosynostosis.
- Some babies may also present with a congenital scoliosis or curvature due to a postural disturbance, and this will also have an effect in the movement and shape of the head of your baby. It is important to understand what the causes are and how best to ease any strains.
At Amberin Fur & Associates we believe in the huge importance of Preventative Medicine, that’s the reason why we offer expertise advise from the moment of birth. Some families prefer to be seen in the comfort on their own homes in the initial weeks until they feel they can come in to the clinic, or others come to see us in our clinic very soon after labour to receive treatment for mother and baby and also advice to handle the huge amount of changes that a new baby brings. It is never too early to be seen.
Many parents ask me how to help to prevent, minimise and improve flat head syndrome but of course a session to reach a thorough diagnosis is always important to be able to adapt them depending on the case of your baby. Here are some top tips to look out for.
- Tummy time (awake with supervision): Ensure that your baby spends plenty of time on his tummy, at the beginning he/she will only be able to spend 15-20 seconds before starts complaining so just take the habit to do it many times a day (at least 10), we often recommend after each nappy change. Tummy time is not just the act of putting the baby on his tummy and wait for him/her to get angry, you can use this time to stimulate head lifting as well as neck rotation both sides with toys, sounds, your voice etc. (specially the opposite of the lie preference). You can facilitate this activity using a rolled towel underneath the chest or special pillows (bobby pillow) with elbows under the shoulders.
- Positioning: As much as possible, placement of the infant on their back partially upright position (with a wedge or blanket roll behind the shoulders and pelvis) to position the back of the head away from the flat side (↓pressure on the flattened area, this is to prevent exacerbation of the headshape and facilitate correction.
- Feeding: you might find more difficult to breastfeed from one side to the other, keep trying both sides and consult with your osteopath, and lactation consultant/midwife to help.
- For bottle feeding, also consider alternating sides or have the baby on your lap facing you on a pillow, with your feet on a stool so that the baby is on an incline.
- Feeding: Always use a soft surface between your forearm and your infant’s head. For bottle feeding, also consider alternating sides or have the baby on your lap facing you on a pillow, with your feet on a stool so that the baby is on an incline.
- Carrying: Use a variety of positions to carry your baby (back towards you, in a front carrier, lying on his stomach or on his side).
- Sitting (car seat, swing, etc.): Minimize the use of sitting equipment. Ensure an optimal alignment (head-trunk and pelvis in midline), stabilize the pelvis using a rolled towel, never interfere with car seat straps, facilitate weight shifted (wedge) to the desired side.
- Stimuli neck rotation: Give your infant stimuli to encourage complete head rotation towards the restricted side. Encourage the symmetrical use of his arms and legs (if he prefers turning his head to one side, he will mostly see and use this hand and experience weight bearing on this preferred side).
- Vary playing positions (on his tummy, sitting in a «boppy pillow», side lying…) to decrease the amount of time spent on the flattened area.
- Sometimes a pillow to stop
your baby to turn so much to the preferred side can be helpful but always I will ask your osteopath if it is indicated for your baby. I recommend “Mimos Pillow”, easy to buy online.
- Position on the cot: If your baby has a lie preference with his/her head, encourage them to turn the head to the opposite side, locating mum at that side of the bed so baby can look for you. If there are in an independent room just locate the window or a light on that side.
These instructions should be taught and adapted by your osteopath, to the unique condition of your infant.