Debby is a very busy woman. But, she loves having her baby, Sasha (whom she welcomed into the world four months ago) around her every chance she gets.
Even if it means just laying the baby on her back so she can see her wave those tiny legs and arms, while she can also work at the same time.
Debby is a work-from-home mom, she runs a blog so it is convenient working from the house but the workload keeps her ‘very’ occupied, so as much as she likes her baby around, she sometimes forgets her baby is there, so baby Sasha is usually left playing solo on her back. Gradually this becomes a pattern, the baby spends more time on her back while Debby spends more time on making her deadlines.
A few weeks later, while bathing the baby she noticed her head was somewhat flat, she was horrified, wondering how her head had gone flat because she didn’t remember the baby falling or anything, she immediately rushed the child to the hospital where it was revealed that her baby’s head had gotten flat because she was consistently lying on her back.
Even though sleeping on the back is the safest position for most babies, because it helps prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), but when babies constantly lie on their backs it causes an increase in babies developing some flattening of the back of their heads (known as Plagiocephaly).
Why does the head flatten?
Your baby’s skull bone is naturally soft and flexible so it can squeeze through the birth canal during childbirth. Many babies born by vaginal delivery come out with slightly pointed heads. During the newborn months, the skull can become flattened when the back of the baby’s head rests for many hours against a firm surface such as a mattress, car seat, infant carrier, bouncy seat, stroller or swing. You may also notice that your baby’s hair is worn off on the flattened side or her face, eyes or ears may appear slightly asymmetrical.
These changes can happen to any newborn baby, but it is more common for premature babies who have softer skulls, babies whose neck muscles are tighter on one side than the other, babies with large heads that are harder to turn, and babies who are “good sleepers.” But it is most likely to resolve between 6 and 12 months of age, once he/she spends more time sitting up and crawling. Most experts agree that mild flattening of a baby’s head does not affect the child’s brain growth, vision, hearing, or development.
So what is the best position for your baby to sleep to prevent flattening?
There’s no best position for that it’s best you hold your baby and lay the baby down in different positions at intervals each day. The doctor enlightened Debby more on the flattening and shared some tips with her which she followed religiously.
For sleep time (Naps and Night-time), she puts the baby to sleep on her back, unless your doctor recommends a different position. Also, she alternates Sasha’s position in the crib each time she puts her to sleep. One night, she’ll make her sleep with her head at the head of the crib the next night, with her head at the foot of the crib.
Babies naturally turn their heads toward the door (to look for you coming into the room), the window (to see the light) or a mobile (to see interesting objects), this will give your baby practice turning his head equally in both directions.
For ‘awake time’, Debby’s doctor recommended that when the baby plays on her tummy, it helps take the pressure off the back of her head. It also helps her strengthen her neck, arms, and upper body, and will help her learn to roll over, sit up and crawl. You can start tummy time for play even with a newborn. When your baby is awake and alert, try playing with their tummy, several times a day. Good times are after a feeding and diaper change, nap or bath when your baby is alert and comfortable. At first, she may fuss a bit with this new position, but over time she will enjoy it more and you can do it for longer periods of time. Your baby will enjoy playing on her tummy when she can see and hear you and other interesting things, for example:
Also lie on your back with your baby on top of you, tummy down, with his/her head on your chest. Talk and sing to him/her. They’ll want to pick up their heads to see you and play with your face.
Lay your baby on her tummy on the floor, with a small cushion or rolled up towel under her chest to prop her up. Lie down in front of her to play with her, and set out toys within her reach. Make funny faces, show your baby the toys, talk and sing to her, and encourage her to reach out. Show her interesting things above her head such as your face, a rattle or a stuffed animal to encourage her to lift her head and push up with her arms. Have a young child play gently with the baby while you supervise, they can easily get down on the floor and capture a baby’s interest in a special way.
Other tips include:
Make sure your baby rests. Find that baby carrier, bouncy seats and swings are helpful to keep babies resting calmly and safely. However, if you leave your baby seated for a long time, the seat puts pressure on the back of your baby’s head, which can cause head flattening. Health experts recommend that you don’t leave your baby in a car seat, baby carrier, bouncy seat or swing for “extended periods of time.” While they don’t specify how long is too long, it’s best to use common sense, imagine how long you would feel comfortable sitting in exactly the same position, without turning to look at something new, stretching your arms and legs, or getting up to move around. Also, when you’re at home, take your baby out of the seat and spend time holding and cuddling him, and doing your chores with him in a front pouch.
When you breastfeed your baby, you feed her on both breasts, this naturally gives her the chance to turn towards you in both directions, exercise her neck muscles equally, and rest a different part of her head on your arms this helps prevent flattening of the head. If you bottlefeed your baby, also try to alternate sides with each feeding at one feeding, hold your baby in your left arm and the bottle in your right hand. The the next feeding hold your baby in your right arm and the bottle in your left hand.
How can I make sure my baby’s skull shape is okay?
Over the first few months of your baby’s life, observe the shape of their head, neck position, and symmetry of the eyes and ears. If you have any concern that there might be some flattening or asymmetry, take photos of your baby’s head from all sides, the front, back, top, and each side. Ask your baby’s doctor to check their head and neck at every well-baby visit. The doctor will tell you whether you need to be concerned or take any special measures. Usually, an exam is sufficient, but if the doctor is concerned, she might order an X-ray or CT scan of your baby’s head. Rarely, a referral to a specialist for evaluation and treatment may be recommended.
Remember, it is very common for babies to have slightly misshapen heads, and this usually resolves within the first year. For children whose heads remain a little misshapen, there is a treatment to correct it. Most differences in the shape of your child’s head will probably not be noticeable by school-age, once he/she has more hair.