What is plagiocephaly (flat head)?

Parents and caregivers should always put babies to sleep on their backs to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But when infants spend a lot of time on their backs, they may develop flat head syndrome, or positional plagiocephaly. Repositioning techniques can help reduce the appearance and effects of flat head syndrome.

What causes flat head syndrome?

Babies’ skulls are soft and somewhat moldable. And infants sleep on their backs for many hours every day. While sleeping, they may consistently turn their head to one side.

If your baby sleeps with a turned head too often, the same section of the head may rest on a surface frequently. The regular pressure can flatten that section of the baby’s soft head.

Flat head syndrome usually happens on one side of the head. But it can occur on both sides or in the back (sometimes called brachycephaly). The longer a part of the head is on a flat surface, the more likely it will flatten.

Are some babies more at risk for plagiocephaly?

Premature babies are more likely to have flattened heads, because their skulls are less developed. They also spend more time lying down while healthcare providers tend to their medical needs.

Some babies may have a muscular torticollis, which is a problem with tight neck muscles. Having torticollis or a premature baby increases the chance of plagiocephaly.

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