If you are a new parent, you know that the early months with an infant at home can be overwhelming! If it’s your first baby, there’s so much to learn, very little sleep, and often some anxiety about doing all of the right things. If you have older children at home, life gets so busy and chaotic sometimes that it can be hard to keep it all together. With everything that is going on during this period, it’s very hard to add anything else to the mix. There is one thing, however, that is quite crucial to be aware of in the early months of a baby’s life, that isn’t spoken about enough. Your baby’s head shape. Making sure that your baby doesn’t end up with a head shape problem is a matter of being aware of a few things that you can incorporate into your routine. It doesn’t have to be complicated, and it can save a lot of time, effort, and interventions later on.
A head shape concern in a baby can present in many ways, but the most common are what we call plagiocephaly or brachycephaly. Essentially this is a flat spot on their head, either to one side or the back. This flat head develops when a baby spends a lot of their time with their head in the same position against a hard or flat surface. In the first few months of life, baby’s heads are very soft and mouldable so this can happen relatively quickly. In fact, a flat area is most likely to develop in the first 6-8 weeks of your baby’s life.
So how can you make sure your baby has a nice round head? Here are the most important things to keep in mind:
It is important to note that a flat area does not have an effect on your baby’s developing brain. Beyond cosmetic concerns in regards to how a head with a flat area looks and how this may impact your child socially, a misshapen head can be more difficult to fit properly with a bike/sports helmet.
If your baby has developed a flat spot, or if you notice that they always look one way, ask your doctor at your baby’s check-up, or book an appointment directly with a Pediatric Physiotherapist to get assessed. The head shape can be improved, and the earlier treatment is started the better. The younger your baby is, the easier it is to remould the head. You will want your baby to have their neck muscles evaluated as well, to determine if there is a neck muscle imbalance. This is called torticollis and it is often the cause of the head shape problem because it will create a preference for your baby to turn their head one way. Torticollis can be effectively treated by a Pediatric Physiotherapist.
If you have any questions about your baby’s head shape or neck muscles, please talk to your doctor, and book an appointment with one of our Pediatric Physiotherapists. We’ll be able to answer your questions and guide you towards the best treatment options. As always with babies and children, the earlier the intervention, the better!