It’s not unusual to see newborn babies whose heads are slightly uneven. Babies’ skulls are very malleable and therefore, slight pressure during birth or from lying extensively in the same position (positional plagiocephaly) can alter its shape. One side of the child’s head may appear flatter than the other. The cheekbone on this side may slightly protrude and the ear may appear as though it has been pushed for forward. A baby’s head also has soft, flat spots known as fontanels.
An unevenly shaped head is hardly a cause for worry though it doesn’t hurt to discuss it with your doctor. Positional plagiocephaly is considered a cosmetic issue that resolves on its own as the baby develops while the fontanels round out by about 6 months of age. At birth and in subsequent visits to the doctor, the shape of the baby’s head and the fontanels are examined to make sure that nothing is wrong. This is usually done regularly through the first year of the baby’s life. Nevertheless, changing the baby’s position often can help even out the shape of the head. Below are some of the changes you can make:
Change sleeping position
Keep placing the infant baby to sleep on his back but change the direction to which his head faces. If the baby changes back to the original position during sleep, change his position the next time. You can also change his position when breastfeeding by alternating arms each time he feeds.
Instead of leaving the baby in his carrier, swing or infant seat for long, hold him more when he’s awake. This helps to relieve the pressure on his head.
Tummy time helps develop upper body strength and encourages crawling but it also helps to relieve pressure from the head. Under close supervision, place the baby on his tummy on a flat, firm surface to play.
A little creativity
Find a position that will force the baby to get off the flattened side of the head in order to track movement or look at you. Occasionally move the baby’s crib to give him a different vantage point.
Molded helmet (Cranial orthotic therapy)
If the unevenness doesn’t resolve by the time your baby is 4 months old, the doctor may prescribe a helmet, molded to shape the head. This helmet guides growth and is usually recommended for babies between 4 and 6 months old. The therapy normally takes several months during which the baby is required to wear the helmet for 23 hours per day. Above age 1, the treatment becomes ineffective since the skull is no longer as malleable as it was.
The treatments above are positional molding measures that are effective in treating positional plagiocephaly. Other causes of unevenness may require different treatments depending on the cause.
If the child has an underlying muscle problem that causes his head to tilt to one side, physical therapy may be recommended. The therapy helps the baby to change his head position more freely. Surgical treatment may be recommended during infancy if the unevenness is caused by premature fusing of some skull bone plates. The surgery separates the fused bones; allowing enough space for proper brain growth. Disclaimer: Information on this website is not medical or dental advice, its for general information only. For more accurate medical and dental information please contact your pediatrician and dentist.