We welcome Sarah from Smart Health Training and Services to the Kids in Adelaide team! Sarah has written a terrific, informative blog for us and we’d love to hear your feedback, comments, concerns and questions on this very popular topic.

Does your baby have a flat head?

You’re not alone! The incidence of ‘flat heads’, or plagiocephaly, is on the rise and it is something I see a lot of in my work as a Chiropractor with a special interest in paediatrics.  

Plagiocephaly is the term used to describe cranial (skull) asymmetry.  It typically involves a flat spot on one side of the back of the head along with ear misalignment and sometimes facial asymmetry.

There are two different types of plagiocephaly and it is important to differentiate them as the course of treatment differs. Synostotic plagiocephaly occurs when there is fusion of one or more of the sutures of the skull. This is rare, but usually requires surgical treatment. Deformational plagiocephaly on the other hand, is far more common and occurs from lying on the back for long periods with the head rotated to one side.

So why do some babies get a flat spot and not others? Research has shown there is a link between restricted neck movement and the development of deformational plagiocephaly. Limited neck movement from tight neck muscles results in a head position preference.  Flattening then develops from prolonged periods of time on the back. This may occur in the cot, baby swing, ‘bouncy seat’, play gym, pram or baby capsule, especially those which are interchangeable as a car seat.

Plagiocephaly is also more common in first-born babies, boys, multiple births, breech presentation, assisted vaginal deliveries (forceps or vacuum), prolonged labour, premature birth and accompanying congenital torticollis, a condition in which one of the neck muscles in significantly shorter than the other side.  Skull flattening is more common on the right side.

So, what can you do?  Many parents of babies with deformational plagiocephaly say the same thing to me: ‘I wish we had known to come earlier’. Often parents are told not to worry about their babies asymmetrical head shape or that it will ‘grow out’. Deformational plagiocephaly does sometimes resolve naturally in the first year of life due to greater levels of spinal movement with increasing age, however, often it doesn’t.  Treatment is most effective when initiated early, ideally before 3 to 4 months of age, when the skull bones have not yet become solid.  So it is imperative that assessment and intervention is not delayed. During the first 6 months of life, the head circumference expands rapidly, providing excellent opportunity for remoulding of the skull. Following this, the rate of head growth slows, and the potential for correction of asymmetry reduces.

Conservative therapy is usually the first line of treatment for infants with deformational plagiocephaly and consists of attempts to reposition the infant’s head during sleep, changing feeding positions, rearrangement of stimulating toys and the cot position so the infant is encourage to turn the head away from the flattened side and supervised “tummy time” on firm surfaces when the infant is awake to take all pressure off the back of the skull. This is coupled with gentle, low force manual therapy with home exercises to address neck muscle imbalances. In severe cases, referral for helmet therapy may be necessary.

Chiropractic treatment is aimed at restoring normal neck muscle balance and therefore offers the potential to eliminate positional preference and hence improve cranial symmetry in infants with deformational plagiocephaly.

Make sure the Chiropractor you see is qualified in paediatrics and uses only low force treatment techniques.

1 Hutchinson BL, Hutchinson LA, Thompson JM, Mitchell EA, 2004, Plagiocephaly and brachycephaly in the first two years of life: a prospective cohort study’, Paediatrics, vol 114, pp 970-980. 

Web: https://www.smarthealthtraining.com.au/
FB: https://www.facebook.com/Smart-Health-Training-and-Services
P: (08) 8293 1100
E: reception@smarthealthtraining.com.au
Address: 12-22 Richmond Road, Keswick

 

You might also be interested in

  • So, each day I aim to read Elka a few stories from her little books. Please note that this is an aim, which means it doesn't always happen! My mum and dad have given Elka quite a few books, as have friends and family. There are some really cool books out there, most of my favourites being Mem Fox titles. I do really like one my mum gave Elka too though, it's called 'Goodnight Little One' by Margaret Wise Brown and has the most adorable illustrations. Elka seems to love it. There are also some rather interesting books. One in particular, is a collection of stories called Peter Rabbit Bedtime Tales by Beatrix Potter and it has some, well, frankly hilarious language in it. I've had to spend a significant amount of time explaining some of the meanings of words to little Elka! Ha! Check out the images for the examples I’m talking about.   So, although Elka is only 7 weeks old now, she should now know the meaning of hospitable, savoury, lard, commence, tedious, implored and exert! I'm even thinking of starting a vocabulary wall to keep her up to date with the language in some of the…

  • Baby carriers, if you grab the right one, are amazing. No need to lug around some clunky enormous pram that takes up the entire boot, your hands are free to walk the dog or drink a coffee (which will be needed. Several times a day) and it is waaaay easier to move around the place...especially in crowds. But...the big but. A lot of baby carriers can be harder to configure and put together than an Ikea wardrobe. With loops and straps seemingly designed for an 8 armed human, honestly for me they just get a little too hard and don't get used. Don't worry Baby Bjorn has your back (and your front...because it is a baby carrier that goes on your front too..... I will show myself out), with the Baby Carrier One. I was lucky enough to get one of these bad boys to take for a spin and I have to say I was really impressed. I took this marvellous piece of baby design and engineering straight out of the box (didn't even need the pesky instructions) and whacked it straight on and off I went for a walk with my tiny model assistant. From box to walking…

  • Recently a few of the KiA kids participated in a Kids First Aid course run by Karyn from Head 2 Toe First Aid. I've been wanting to book this in for aaages and it's just one of those things that got put off and put off but was constantly niggling in my brain, I knew I had to just to make it a priority and BOOK IT IN. First Aid is SO important, and we're warned all the time that even just basic First Aid SAVES LIVES so why we don't make more of an effort to make sure our WHOLE family has at least a basic knowledge is crazy. Classes are 90 minutes and are aimed at kids aged 7+ They can be booked as part of one of Karyn's Community Classes or even better you can get a group of your family and friends together and organise an individualised in-home session, which is what we did. I love this option because it gives your kids the chance to learn with their siblings and friends who are quite likely to be the ones around if/when an emergency happens. The kids worked together on the fun games and scenarios given…