Disclaimer: I am not a doctor. The methods below are tactics shared with me by our daughter’s physical therapist. If you are concerned with your child developing a flat spot please consult a physician.
Unfortunately, our daughter developed a flat spot when she was an infant. This brought on all the mommy guilt. Luckily, we were able to catch it early on. We were very proactive with treatment for our daughter. We got a referral to a wonderful physical therapist who was very helpful. He gave us directions on how to modify her daily life at home. Then, once a month he would check her measurements in the office. After 3 months, we were finally cleared from physically therapy. Thankfully, we never needed a helmet.
Today I want to share with you the advice her physical therapist gave to us. Hopefully, these simple modifications will be able to help other parents correct their infants head shape and avoid helmeting. Using these techniques from the start can significantly decrease your baby’s chance for developing flat head syndrome. However, it is important to know that sometimes flat head syndrome cannot be prevent. You can do every technique in the book and still have a baby with a flat spot. Please don’t let the mommy guilt get to you. All you can do is try your best. Use the following techniques as often as you can.
Talk to your pediatrician – It’s important to make an appointment with your pediatrician right away if you suspect your baby may be developing a flat spot. The sooner a flat spot is detected the easier it is to reverse. So, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s doctor. They are more than happy to take a look at their head shape and refer out to a physical therapist if needed. They will also be able to diagnose any underlying causes like Torticollis. You may even find out that the flat spot is so minute that you won’t need any treatment at all.
Avoid too much time in the carseat – Carseats limit a baby’s range of motion making it difficult for them to turn their neck from side to side. That’s why it is so important to limit the amount of time your baby spends in their carseat. Try to only use carseats during travel. If you are out and about running errands carry the baby in a carrier or in a stroller using the bassinet setting to lie flat. This will allow your baby to fully turn their neck to both sides. When you are traveling be sure to stop every few hours and get your baby out of their carseat. Use this time to change a diaper or offer a feeding. This gives them time to stretch out before going back into their seat.
Do lots of tummy time – Tummy time is extremely important for a babies development. It helps them strengthen the muscles they need to hold their head up, roll over, crawl, stand, and walk. Another great benefit to tummy time is that it relieves pressure from the back of your babies head. It can be difficult to get your baby to enjoy tummy time. It’s important to remember that tummy time is hard work. It’s not going to be comfortable at first. However, don’t be discouraged if your baby starts to get fussy. Continue giving multiple opportunities for tummy time and encourage them. The benefits of tummy time truly are amazing, so it’s important to not miss out. If you are struggling with getting baby to do tummy time I have a perfect post for you! Recently I shared my top tips for getting a baby to enjoy tummy time.
Switch things up – One of the best things you can do to avoid flat head syndrome is to switch the direction you hold and lay your baby. This gives them the opportunity to strengthen their neck muscles by forcing them to turn their head in the opposite direction of what they are used to. There are a few key opportunities to do this throughout your day. If you are bottle feeding make sure you switch which arm you hold your baby in during a feed. This isn’t necessary during breastfeeding because you do this automatically. Another great opportunity is during naps and bedtime. Change the direction you lay your baby in the crib for every sleep time. Babies would rather look out at the exciting features of a room rather than the wall behind them. This will allow them to practice turning their neck to both sides.
Put baby to sleep on a flat surface – It is so important that your baby sleeps on a flat sleep surface. Some examples of safe flat sleep surfaces include a crib, pack ‘n play, or bassinet. Sleep spaces you would want to avoid would be swings, rock ‘n plays, carseats, etc. I know it may be tempting to use these spaces for sleep. The incline and movement tend to promote longer sleep periods. That’s why I used them with my daughter. However, they also restrict movement in your babies neck. This can cause them to keep their head turned to one side for the majority of the night which over time can cause a flat spot. It’s okay to use one of these products for an occasional nap or to get your child through an illness. Just make sure the majority of their sleep happens on a flat surface.