What is Flathead?
Now, this is a very common problem, every mom faces. “Newborn Flathead”. This sounds dangerous and sounds like a defect in our baby. But the good news is it’s completely normal. More than 50% of babies have this defect in the initial months of their life. It’s the same for both boys and girls. The common cause for this syndrome is making your baby lie on the bed only in one position. Like making your baby sleep only on his back or on one side for long hours or every day in his bed, swing, crib, car seat, etc.
My baby also developed a flathead when he came out into this world. We were trying for normal delivery, but the baby was not coming out easily. His heart rate started increasing very high and hence we opted for a c-section delivery. Since it was getting late when my baby came out his right-hand palm was a little bit blue in color. If the delivery didn’t happen at the right time then the baby may become completely blue and die due to lack of oxygen as the water already broke before. So since my baby was trying to come through the birth canal from the vagina, the right side of the head moved in an upward position like a peak. It looked very awkward and I was very afraid to see his head. But my doctor explained to me that this is normal and it will become normal after a few months. When my baby was 6 months old, that flathead started reducing and by one year, his head was completely normal. It got into a nice round shape. For some babies, it may take up to 2 years to get their normal round head shape.
Symptoms of Flathead
- A flat spot on your baby’s head. Either the backside, right side, or left side of the head.
- Less hair in that area.
- Baby sleeps on the flat spot area more often for comfort.
- Asymmetrical head shape.
- Irregular head.
When does it occur?
Your newborn’s skull bones are very delicate and are not hard enough as a toddler or adult. Their bones are soft and pliable for easy passage through the mother’s birth canal at the time of delivery. They change their head shape according to the movement in the birth canal. That is why newborns’ heads can change shape very easily if more pressure is put on them. Some babies sleep only on one side and hence the side part of the head becomes flat. Some babies head become uneven when they try to come through the birth canal from the vagina. This is very normal and your baby’s head will come back in its round shape after a few months as your baby grows and his bones become strong. It goes away on its own between 6 months to 1 year when the baby starts sitting, walking, playing, and crawling. If it doesn’t go after one year then you must consult your pediatrician.
Some babies develop flatheads in the womb itself if they are immature or have some problems with development. Or if you are carrying twins or triplets, there might be less space for babies to grow and hence one or two babies might get flat heads at this time.
How to prevent Flat Heads?
- Let your baby have some tummy time. This will help your baby to play on his stomach and his head will not have any pressure.
- Massage your baby’s body from head to toe.
- Change your baby’s head position if you see him sleeping only on one side for long hours.
- Hold your baby in an upright position and play with him when he is awake. This will help relieve pressure on your baby’s head due to sleeping in bed, cribs, swings, and carriers.
- Use a mustard seed pillow for your newborn baby. Whenever you put your baby’s head on this pillow, it easily accommodates according to the head shape and doesn’t put pressure only on one side of the head. Mustard seeds are very flexible and move very easily whenever your baby changes position while sleeping.
- Let your baby sleep on his tummy during the daytime. But you should still supervise your baby. Some babies might get breathing problems if their nostrils are pressed while sleeping on their stomachs, or if there are any fluffy toys or soft pillows around their head. This is very dangerous and may cause SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). So always keep an eye on your baby.
- Switch from side to side while breastfeeding or formula feeding. Feed 15 minutes on one side and 15 minutes on the other. If you feed only on one side for a long time, the arm pressure on your baby’s head can cause a flat head.
- Always keep his head covered with a cap or cotton cloth till he is 6 months old.
- If your baby’s side part of the head is flat then he will sleep on that side only every day which it can get worse. So keep pillows on both sides of the head to avoid side flathead. There are many infant pillows available in the market today.
- If the baby’s head doesn’t come under normal shape then your doctor might suggest helmet therapy in which your doctor will give you a small helmet for your baby that should be used according to your doctor’s advice.