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Positional Head Shape Deformity

Why is my child’s head shape different?

There are two common reasons why your child’s head shape may be different.

  • Because of how the baby sleeps (Positional Plagiocephaly)
  • Fused skull joint or skull suture (craniosynostosis)

It is important to find out why,  because your child may or may not need surgery.

The most common reason your babies’ head shape is abnormal is from positioning, but it is important that we do not miss the few babies whose skull is misshapen from a fused skull joint.

Early surgery to open the skull joint will allow the brain to grow.   If the joint is not opened surgically, the skull shape will continue to become worse and may affect the development of the brain.

However, if your child does not need surgery, then your child may benefit from helping your baby’s motor development to the use of a helmet.

Time is important as your child is rapidly growing.  Your doctor referred you to our center so that we can help determine why the head shape is abnormal and what would be the best way to treat it.

Misshapen Skull Because of Position

When your child was born, your doctor talked to you about the importance of your baby sleeping on his or her back.  This is so that your baby can breathe better.  The American Academia of Pediatrics started the back-to-sleep program in 1993 to prevent sudden infant death (SID).

The number of babies who have died from SID has significantly dropped, but the number of babies whose back of the head have become ‘flattened’ from the pressure of ‘sleeping on the back’ has increased.   A baby sleeps between 15 to 17 hours each day. That is a lot of amount of the time that baby sleeps on his or her back and the brain can not push the skull out.  Also when the baby is first born, the skull is thin and soft like  cardboard, so it can easily be deformed by constant pressure. As the brain can not grow in the back, the brain then pushes the skull upward, sideways and forward.   The misshapen skull occurs because of external pressure.

Because of this, your doctor will have told  you the importance of ‘tummy-time’, repositioning your baby often from side-to-side, and to limit the use of an infant carrier.

Sometimes the babies will have torticollis or another name is wry-neck. This is when the neck muscle is tight and your baby can not fully turn his or her head.  A ‘tight’ neck muscle requires early physical therapy.

When you come to see us, we will work with you and your baby to help improve the head shape and, if needed, we can work with a specialist who can provide a helmet (orthotist) so that the pressure is not on the back of the head when your baby is sleeping until your baby is able to be more active.