The flattening of a baby’s skull is caused by the pressure on the skull from a flat surface.

Up to approximately 12 months old, the skull bones of a baby are still relatively soft and are liable to become flattened against a flat surface if prolonged pressure is applied and the baby’s head is relatively still for long periods. Typically, this can occur through sleeping on a normal flat mattress.

If a baby has a preferred side to which to rotate, the head will constantly be looking to the same side thereby putting pressure on the same spot for long periods.

In the case of brachycephaly the baby is left for long periods in the face up position thereby putting pressure on the back of the head, often resulting in a flattening deformity due to the weight of the head against a flat surface. A flat mattress as well as lying a baby on his/her back on a carpet are typical causes. Semi-reclined bouncy chairs can also cause prolonged pressure on the back of a baby’s head.

Why do some babies develop flat head syndrome and others do not?

There are two main groups:

The first is of those babies who are quiet and content.

Some babies are prone to developing flat heads just by virtue of the fact that there are ‘quiet’ or ‘good’ babies.

There are three reasons for this.

  1. Quiet babies tend to be left to remain in their chair whereas crying babies tend to be picked up to be comforted.
  2. Babies that are crying are generally moving their head and not subjecting themselves to prolonged pressure on one spot.
  3. Crying babies are pushing fluids into their skulls are re-inflating the flat car tyre, so to speak.

The other group is made up of those babies that have a preferred side to which to rotate.

They will invariably develop flat head syndrome from the constant pressure that a flat surface will impose on the skull bones in that particular place. Some babies have a preferred side to which to rotate because they feel uncomfortable or stiff looking to the affected side. Often these babies will find it easier to breast feed on one side of the nursing mother, typically babies that prefer to look to their right side will prefer to breast feed from the mother’s left breast, and visa-versa.

This is a condition called torticollis, meaning ‘stiff neck’. If, as a parent, you spot your baby with torticollis, extreme caution must be observed to stop your baby developing or worsening flat head syndrome.

Flat Head Syndrome Prevention & Treatment

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