Flat Head Syndrome
What’s the risk and how can parents protect their baby?
What Flat Head Syndrome: It is a condition in which flat spots form on baby’s skull, often combined with a tightening of the neck muscles on one side, largely due to babies spending up to 16 hours a day on their backs in the first few months of life. Sometimes babies are born with the condition due to position in utero or birth trauma.
Is my baby at risk? More than a million babies each year will be diagnosed with Flathead Syndrome in the USA alone. This number has increased over 600% since 1992. All babies are at risk. This is largely a consequence of the combination of lifestyle changes in families and because babies now sleep on their backs.
Nearly 1 in 2 babies in the US now develop some degree of flat head syndrome by the time they are 5 months old. Current research suggests that many infants with flat head syndrome can experience not only cosmetic abnormalities, but also varying degrees of developmental delays later in life. [Pediatrics 200; 105:e26] as well as sight and hearing abnormalities.
If not corrected in early infancy, these conditions can be extremely expensive and emotionally and physically difficult to treat. Physical therapy can be uncomfortable for the child, but is often required, and in severe cases, cranial remolding (the helmet) is necessary.
Prevention with Repositioning
Fortunately, Flat Head Syndrome is almost always preventable, especially when parents are educated about the issue and proactive in their prevention efforts. Due to the recent epidemic of flat head syndrome, the AAP now requests that medical providers counsel new parents on how to avoid Flat Head Syndrome during their newborn’s checkups.
The best method of prevention is to be diligent in repositioning your baby’s head. Newborn infants sleep the majority of the time, and it’s important that they be flat on their backs when they are sleeping. To reduce the pressure this can cause on the back of the head, parents should:
- Reposition baby’s head after each feeding, alternating sides so that one does not become favored.
- Parents can also try alternating the arm in which they hold their baby for feeding, and alternating the side from which they approach baby during diaper changes.
- Parents should incorporate “tummy time” with baby. If babies are introduced to tummy time right away, they enjoy it from the start; it should become more enjoyable as they become more familiar with the position.
- As baby gets older, and strong enough to move on his or her own, usually by two months, parents can provide distractions to entice baby to turn their head from side to side, perhaps using a favorite toy. Another helpful tactic can be to turn baby around in the crib so that they naturally turns toward the parent and the activity in the room.
Prevent Flat Head Syndrome with Tortle
Tortle makes it easy for busy parents and caregivers to prevent Flathead Syndrome. The Tortle is an FDA cleared, simple, safe, and comfortable beanie designed to aid parents in repositioning their infants. By alternating the Tortle’s positioning roll from side to side with each feeding, parents prevent the development of flat spots and neck tightening. For more information about Tortle and Dr. Jane’s mission, visit Tortle.com.
Tortle creator, Dr. Jane Scott is a Board-Certified Pediatrician, a wife, and a mother of four. Over the last 20 years, she has watched Flathead Syndrome increase exponentially in infants to epidemic numbers, and has witnessed countless parents and caregivers struggle to treat this preventable condition. Some are fortunate to receive an early diagnosis, when the issue is still fairly easy to correct. However, many emotionally devastated parents are faced with difficult choices to make because Flathead Syndrome quickly progresses from slight, to moderate, to severe in a very short period of time. After seeing so much unnecessary heartache, Dr. Jane made it her mission to end flat head syndrome across the US and the world.
- Prevention is key and flat head syndrome doesn’t have to affect your baby.
- Speak with your pediatrician about Flathead Syndrome.
- Get informed and be prepared before your baby is born. Help spread awareness by talking to your friends and family.
- There are numerous online resources for information and support from other families who have had a baby diagnosed with flat head syndrome. Through education and awareness we can keep our babies heads beautiful and round!
Background on Dr. Jane Scott: Board Certified Neonatologist, Pediatrician, and Founder of Tortle Products, LLC
As a neonatologist and pediatrician, babies and moms are Dr. Jane’s life. Not only does she have first-hand experience as a mother – she had four premature babies – she works with infants who have severe medical conditions and understands how difficult this can be for families.
Born in Kenya, Dr. Jane attended the University of Western Australia Medical School in Perth. Years later, after moving to the United States, she attended the University of Colorado Medical School and completed her residency in Pediatrics and fellowship in Neonatology at Duke University while simultaneously raising four young children. She was soon recruited to build up St. Luke’s Magic Valley Hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho from a Level 1 NICU to a Level 3A NICU. She returned to Colorado in 2010 and currently practices in Centennial.
Throughout her career, Dr. Jane has worked with parents to help avoid and correct problems associated with an abnormal head shape, known as positional plagiocephaly. The incidence of this condition has increased dramatically, from parents following the protocol introduced by the American Academy of Pediatrics of placing babies only on their backs to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
In addition to educating new parents on the prevention of plagiocephaly, Dr. Jane created Tortle, a non-invasive affordable solution that not only treats mild cases and early diagnosed positional plagiocephaly and torticollis in young infants, but can prevent it from ever occurring. The Tortle is a patented, FDA cleared device that Jane hopes will eradicate flat head syndrome while allowing moms to safely follow AAP’s important Back to Sleep protocol. Dr. Jane is currently writing her first book on plagiocephaly, which is slated for release in Spring 2013. Dr. Jane’s work is her passion, but when she’s not working she enjoys spending time with her children and grandchildren. She is a Board Certified Neonatologist, Pediatrician, and Founder of Tortle Products, LLC.