The Doctors watch a video from Rylee, who says her 3-month-old son Lucas doesn’t love tummy time and his head is getting flat in the back. What should she do to reverse it? Pediatric occupational therapist Dr. Lisa Lewis is in the audience to answer Rylee’s question.
Dr. Lewis explains this is very common and very treatable. Flat head syndrome or plagiocephaly is prevalent in 47% of the infant population. The large increase is due to the back to sleep movement in the 90s, as a way to reduce SIDS.
When the baby is not sleeping, they need to get as much tummy time as possible. The American Association of Pediatrics has a saying, “Back to sleep, tummy to play,” that parents should follow. Keeping the baby off their back will relieve the pressure from the back of their head.
Dermatologist Dr. Sonia Batra brings up the many devices like beanies and pillows on the market claiming to help with flat head syndrome and Dr. Lewis recommends spending your money elsewhere! The American Association of Pediatrics doesn’t want anything at all in the crib, and repositioning is the number one treatment.
Even if your baby doesn’t love tummy time, Dr. Lewis says, they’re okay as long as they aren’t hysterically crying. The position is hard for them, they’re not used to it, and they have to use different muscles when they are not on their backs. She advises parents to get down on the floor with the babies or to do tummy time a different way. It can also be done when doing skin-to-skin. A parent can lie down with the baby on their chest. The baby can also be held like a “football” on their stomach. Anything that is against gravity is what you are looking for.
If the flat head persists by about four months old, Dr. Lewis recommends first speaking to your pediatrician, and then likely a physical therapist or occupational therapist. She says there is another condition in which there is a shortening of the neck muscles that may be contributing to the flat head. The therapist can give you simple exercises to do with your baby. If the problem persists, Dr. Lewis recommends seeing an orthopedist who can provide a DOC band helmet which is specifically created for your child.
Plastic surgeon Dr. Andrew Ordon notes, the good news is, as babies grow their bones should fuse and often the problem will correct itself.