Also known as positional plagiocephaly, flat head syndrome is a common medical condition where a flat spot develops on the side or back of a baby's head.
A baby's skull bone doesn't fully fuse and harden until several months after birth. They are born with thin and flexible bony plates to allow them to squeeze through the birth canal, meaning their skull is much softer allowing flat head syndrome to develop.
If your baby has positional plagiocephaly, you will notice flat spots across the back of the head or on one side. In some cases, a bald patch can appear in the area the baby lies on and in others, there may be an uneven positioning of the ears. In rare cases, one eye may appear lower down or smaller than the other.
In a nutshell, flat head is caused by weak muscles in the neck making it harder for babies to turn their head. This means they keep their head in the same position when lying down.
Babies should always be placed on their back to sleep to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, if there is prolonged pressure, this can leave them at risk of flat spots
It is possible for your baby to get flat spots on their head before they have even been born. The most common reasons include pressure on the babies skull from the mother's pelvis or if the baby is a twin. Babies from multiple births are sometimes born with some flat spots on their heads.
Ensure your baby gets plenty of supervised tummy time during the day. Get down on the floor with them for a few minutes at a time and engage with them.
Change their view. If baby naturally gravitates to one direction, place him or her down for a nap at opposite ends of the crib.
Place cot mobiles or night lights on the side you want your baby to turn toward.
When you are feeding your baby, mix it up by switching up how you hold your baby by trying new positions or using a feeding pillow from time to time.
Limit your baby's time in car seats, prams, rockers, swings and other portable equipment.
When possible, use a baby carrier or sling to transport your baby rather than a buggy.
The good news is plagiocephaly is treatable. In general, a doctor will recommend parents to alternate sleeping positions, frequent tummy time and to limit the usage of car seats, swings and rockers to allow babies skull to improve and grow rounder naturally. However, if the flat spot is extreme, a doctor may prescribe a helmet to treat it.