Plagiocephaly - misshapen head
What is it?
Plagiocephaly is the most common craniofacial problem today. Deformational plagiocephaly, also known as positional plagiocephaly, means a misshapen or uneven (asymmetrical) head shape. Plagiocephaly does not affect the development of a baby's brain, but if not treated it may change their physical appearance by causing uneven growth of their face and head.
Signs and Symptoms
It is common for a newborn baby to have an unusual head shape. This can be caused by the position of the baby in the uterus during pregnancy or can happen during birth. Your baby's head should go back to a normal shape within about six weeks after birth. Sometimes a baby's head does not return to a normal shape and the baby may have developed a flattened spot at the back or side of the head. This condition is known as deformational plagiocephaly.
The bones of a newborn baby's head are thin and flexible so the head is soft and may change shape easily. Flattening of the head in one area may happen if a baby lies with its head in the same position for a long time.
If you have concerns about your baby's head shape or if you notice that your baby only turns their head to one side when lying on their back, contact your local GP, community nurse, or paediatric physiotherapist.
What Therapies for Kids can do
- assessment of your child's head shape
- assessment of your child's vision (visual tracking skills)
- assist with maintaining a full range of movement in your child's neck
- education on positional treatment techniques
- techniques to encourage the development of gross motor skills to allow your child a variety of positions to play in and thus decrease the time they are on their backs
What you can do
A baby's head position needs to be varied during sleep and awake periods. There are some simple things you can do to help prevent your baby from developing deformational plagiocephaly:
- Sleep time: A baby must always be placed on their back to sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome/Cot Death). However, it is important to vary the position of your baby's head by alternating its position between the left and right sides each time they sleep.
- Sleep position: Place your baby at alternate ends of the cot to sleep, or change the position of the cot in the room. Babies look at fixed objects like windows or wall murals. Changing their cot position will encourage them to look at different angles.
- Playtime: Place your baby on their tummy or side to play when awake. You can also change the position of toys that your baby likes to look at.
Vary the holding and carrying positions of your baby. For example, use a sling, hold upright for cuddles, carry your baby over your arm on their tummy or side.