In one way or the other, you might have noticed a less than 2-year baby wearing a helmet. That little baby wearing a headgear, isn’t probably going to ride a motorcycle, or to play contact sport like NFL football, so there’s no need to ask mom. Why do babies have to wear helmets then? We’ll find out soon enough, but if you already know it has to do with treating the child’s flat head, there are other ways how to fix baby’s flat head without helmet.
Let us go dig a little deeper!
First, why do babies have to wear helmets?
Babies wear helmets as a physical therapy. The helmet is used to treat flat head syndrome – what I heard a medical student call it craniosynostosis.
You might not have noticed a flat head baby, but if you had spent some pretty good time babysitting or being around very little children under 2 years, you’ll probably notice some babies have flat spots on their head.
It is normal for parents and health expert to get worried about flat head syndrome in babies, for fear that it can permanently affect the shape of their skull and the child’s brain growth.
If during and after birth, a doctor notices your baby has got an odd-shaped head, your baby’s pediatrician can diagnose and recommend a helmet therapy.
The baby helmet (protective headgear) is going to force the flat spot to round out while the skull plates in the head are still soft and developing.
What causes flat head syndrome in babies? Now, let us see what causes a flat head syndrome in babies.
Plagiocephaly – One cause of misshapen head
Plagiocephaly is a flat head syndrome. The situation occurs when a little baby gets some kind of flattening of one of the soft skull plates on head. The baby’s sleep position (with the back of the head) is one of the responsible causes of this flat head syndrome. Although it is the recommended way to let babies sleep.
A little digging to Positional Plagiocephaly
You know soft plates make babies’ head change easily. So, infants who sleep on their backs for many hours a day can cause the back portion of their head to flatten out, although the Plagiocephaly isn’t painful.
Parents should not get happy that the baby is sleeping for several hours, turn the sleep position after some times. It does not matter if the baby is on bed, on car seats, carriers, swings, bouncy seats or strollers.
If your baby can’t turn the neck left or right while sleeping, that is another problem. Tight neck muscle (torticollis) makes it hard for infants to twist their neck to turn head.
That is why your tiny little boy will probably be holding his head in one position throughout his sleep cycle. You know that lying down only in one position will cause head flattening.
American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports have shown that there is been increasing number of positional plagiocephaly for infants sleeping on their backs.
About Plagiocephaly before birth
Another causes of Plagiocephaly (uneven or irregular shape head) is before Birth. The baby can drop into the mother’s pelvis before delivery. At an earlier stage of the fetus life, the baby’s head may remain against the flat surface.
Pressure due to this contact can build up and cause flattening. The risk is overly high when she is pregnant with large babies, twins or multiple babies.
Pressure can also develop inside the small or crowded uterus (with many fetus) and unusual fetal positioning can lead to deformational plagiocephaly before birth. The risk is even higher for babies born premature since they have softer skull bones.
Symptoms of Plagiocephaly: one side of the head appear flattened
Craniosynostosis – causes flat head syndrome in babies
If one of more of those fibrous tissues(sutures), holding the skull bone together, quickly hardens, the skull bones can abnormally fuse too soon. There, your child will have little bumps, small lumps and some flat spots in the head.
Just a little on Craniosynostosis
Let us keep it simply stupid. Craniosynostosis is a tongue-tearing term used by health experts to describe a flat head.
Science shows that human head has a skull that is made up of about five bony-like, soft, thin and malleable skins (plates). Premature fusion of these flexible joints (sutures) between the plates restricts the baby’s skull from growing.
The skull restriction creates a rising fluid pressure inside the skull and the baby’s head shape flattens out in this area, while the rest of the fibrous tissues (doctors call it sutures), expand and give more room for the brain to grow.
If not all the plates expand, and the child ages out, it may become permanent. In that case, you’ll still be an adult at 40, with a an extraordinarily pear-shaped head.
One thing to note is that, it is these soft plates that make babies’ head change shape easily. From birth, as you grew up, the sutures in your little head become harder, stronger and fasten your skull bone together.
- unequally shaped skull
- missing soft spot on baby’s head
- baby’s head grows abnormally
- possible loss of vision
Types of Craniosynostosis
The type of flat head determines the shape of the helmet to use. So it makes sense to be able to identify which type of craniosynostosis your baby’s got.
- Trigonocephaly (ridge-like front head)
This occurs when the forehead sutures fuse too soon. Nurses and medical people call it metopic synostosis. An early closing of fibrous tissues along the baby’s head towards the middle of the forehead and nose can cause a ridge-like forehead to form.
This head shape forms when there is premature closing or fusion of sutures along the back of the baby’s head to top of the head. Often termed sagittal craniosynostosis, this makes your baby to develop a long narrow skull, which doesn’t help except to add pressure to the innocent child’s brain.
How To identify or diagnose if a baby has a flat head
Most parents are smart enough to figure it out earlier. But if you have a baby, here is how to check and be sure your baby has one of the two craniosynostosis.
- Visually check your baby’s face and examine the head from time to time
- Measure your baby’s head
- Ask for CT scan of the baby’s head
- With hands, feel the soft spots around your baby’s skull. Some may be missing.
- Baby has wider or narrower eye sockets
- Check unusual bumps and ridges on the head
Caution–your baby may feel some slight pains.
Why do babies need helmets differently then?
If you delay fixing craniosynostosis, your baby can end up with a shapeless skull and restricted brain growth. About 47% of babies suffer from some sort of flat spot (plagiocephaly) and most pediatricians recommend cranial orthosis(helmet therapy for babies) as a way to gradually and naturally fix the baby’s skull into a round shape.
It is not a sport gear for protection
Such a helmet therapy is prescribed by a physician purposely to treat childhood cranial orthosis and not for injury prevention or protection.
Most kids helmets that pediatric orthoptist recommend have no visors, facemasks, multi-bars. Some orthotic baby helmet have a cut-out section on the shell, often near the flattened spot.
They customize it for individual baby’s head
Usually, the baby orthotics helmets are usually custom made for kids with flat head. To specifically reshape the infant’s skull, there’s need for a perfectly fitting helmet, and that depends on the child’s individual head shape.
Experts will use a laser light to make a plaster mold of the baby’s head shape. They then manufactured the baby helmet to have a hard exterior shell and foam at the interior part. The baby’s orthotics helmet shouldn’t feel painful, rather they are custom made to be very comfortable.
The fit is such that the inside of the helmet puts a little pressure around areas of the baby’s head that are protruding, and the flattened sections are allowed to expand freely.
Recommended Time to wear baby helmet
How long do babies wear helmets for flat head? To permanently fix babies’ head with helmet, they need to wear it for up to 24 hours a day. You see, this is unlike other protective helmets for rides and contact sports.
How long do babies wear helmets for flat head ? Babies with misshapen skull need to wear the helmet for 23-24 hours
It seems hard to hold your head inside a helmet for that long time, but babies don’t worry, or do they? Parents only need to take off the helmet only when bathing and dressing up the child.
Frequently removing the helmet may not properly help the helmet therapy before the skull bones fuse up. Under daily supervision of a health expert, the baby helmet therapy can last up to 90 days, for severe cases.
The helmet therapy for flat head works pretty great for babies under 6 months of age. The treatment works well if she is 6-9 months and you’ll get no results for baby older than 1 year.
Helmet therapy relies only on your baby’s skull being a little more flexible and still growing quickly. That is why cranial helmet works just for a short time.
Flat Head Treatment without Helmet
It is possible to have Plagiocephaly Treatment Without a helmet. Having your baby wear a helmet to correct odd shapes of the head is not always the only option. Despite that, to reverse head flattening with a helmet can be expensive and uncomfortable for your child.
If the baby’s head deformity is still mild, or not near severe enough, earlier repositioning therapy can bring the child’s shape back to normal before the skull bone begins to harden, If you understand this as a parent, you’re never going to have to buy a helmet for your infant.
If you gave birth to (or want to avoid ending up with) a cone-head baby and you don’t want to use a helmet, try the following non-helmet flat head syndrome solutions.
how to fix baby’s flat head without helmet
How do you get rid of a flat head on a baby without a helmet? If your baby has a small flat spot on back of baby’s head, here are the various options of flat head syndrome treatment without need for an infant head helmet.
1. Offer many Tummy Time
Active tummy time is a supervised time when you lay your baby, who is awake, on the tummy, with face downward. Practicing active tummy time to fix baby’s flat head works awesomely than when the baby lies on the tummy while sleeping and at rest.
Tummy time makes babies keep their head up in the air, and hold it against gravity, while using their hands to play around. Such positioning helps them to be able to move their necks, turn their heads when they take a nap.
Tummy time works better than the mother allowing the baby to spend more time in baby swings, strollers and car seats. Different ways to offer your child tummy time when she is not sleeping. You can try any of the following tummy positions almost every hour of the day:
- Set your baby up on a boppy pillow and throw some toys around
- place your baby with her tummy on your chest, while you lie on your back
- Cross your legs and lay your baby across them
- Let her sleep on the bed, on her tummy, and supervise it.
2. Neck stretch exercises
You have seen that some neck tightening conditions do not favor babies to get a good shape of the head. You can exploit your baby’s play time to make the neck loosened and flexible. Lay your baby on your back, and throw some easy to conquer toys, on the right side of head and some on the left side.
Distracting object like this mirror and water mat will keep the baby more occupied. As the baby struggles to play around with toys, from left to write and back, that neck stretches and adjustment helps you avoid baby helmet but gets your baby’s flat head fixed.
Another way you can help a baby practice neck stretching is to make the baby lie down on a mat, chair, or bed, while the mom sits on one side. Normally, some babies will roll over in the direction of facing the mother.
Holding your baby like a football also gets your baby’s neck muscles stretches if you do it correctly. Remember, a baby with flexible and strong neck muscles will easily turn the head, and that is what can get the flat head corrected without a helmet.
3. Crib Adjustment
Some conscious mothers and nannies frequently change baby’s positions in the crib. To get a round little baby head, keep your child down in a crib and vary the position. The way to lay your baby down in the crib matters a lot and depends if you–the parent, is right-handed or left-handed.
If a mom is right-handed, she will probably carry the baby’s cradle in her left arm, and she will normally position the little baby in the crib with head towards the left.
There is no right or wrong way to lay the little angel down in a crib, but you should often choose a method that will cause your baby to actively turn the head to the less-flattened side.
Some pediatricians recommend that moms should also use a role of foam, cut out a small area and let the foam go under the baby’s crib sheet. Mothers should position it exactly where the innocent baby is going to lay the head, with bumpy side down. This sounds too simple, but it will help with plagiocephaly and correct baby’s flatness.
4. change breastfeeding and sleep positions
You know that your baby’s trip through the birth canal happened under pressure. You don’t have to contribute any more pressure in the way you hold the baby for feeding or the way you lay down the baby to have a nap.
If your baby is awake, most parents usually keep the boy seated while bottle feeding. If the child is just a few months old, the skull is still so soft and laying the little boy down on the arms to feed still puts pressure on the skull. You should frequently change that position.
Also, the recommended sleep position to let your small boy lie with the back of the head and face-up on a firm mattress, but that puts pressure on the back of the baby’s head. You have to eliminate the pressure of lying flat on the bed, and one beautiful way is to frequently switch head positions while he is asleep.
5. Use newborn pillows
You know that back-sleeping your little baby girl increases the risk of her developing a flat head syndrome. Moreover, if your baby hardly even moves once you let her hit the mattress on baby’s bed, a head shaping pillow is a good option to reduce pressure.
A pillow that is designed and manufactured from a heavy memory foam type material keeps an infant’s head pretty well. Besides, you can carry them along on travel, car rides around town and for vacations.
6. Hold Your Bebe more often
Hold your baby more often to reduce the pressure she gets from sleeping on strollers, car seats, bouncy seats or baby carrier. This is even contrary to the belief that some young parents have about their newborn baby who may be just a few weeks or months into babyhood.
The idea is, hold your baby even if she falls asleep in the car or during bed time. Holding your baby for a nap is more supervised than letting her snooze on the bed without any help.
7. Perform cranial surgery
Cranial surgery is a solution for very rare cases of flat head syndrome. Surgery is often used to treat craniosynostosis rather than plagiocephaly and brachycephaly. If the cranium growth becomes rigid, that is only when plagiocephaly surgery will fix the deformity.
The doctor may discuss surgery only if there is absolute need to reshape a severely misshapen human skull, although a cranial helmet can help. A surgeon may make a small incision at the back of the flat head or carry out a plastic surgery if you are an adult.
The first thing is to take your baby to the nearest craniofacial or neurosurgical unit and let the surgeon suggest Surgery for the craniosynostosis if need be.
The objective is release fused sutures that might be compressing the Child’s brain. The surgical treatment for craniosynostosis is only for relieving pressure on the brain and should never be considered for plagiocephaly and brachycephaly.
How long does it take to fix flat head without helmet?
Treatments for flat head syndrome in babies typically takes two to four months to get a round shaped and more symmetrical head appearance. through physiotherapy. You have to be ready for some lifestyle changes during the flat head syndrome treatment, especially after flat spot head surgery.
Video – How to fix baby flat head syndrom
Does a baby’s flat head correct itself?
Will baby’s flat head round out on its own? Sure, it does happen but if the parents are NOT more concerned about the odd baby’s skull shape, at an early stage of growth, they can leave it to heal naturally. In most cases, the flat head issue will fix itself by the time the child is 2-5 years old.
Can you fix adult flat head?
It is not impossible to do skull reshaping surgery in adults. But experts can stop the flat head situation by by reshaping the outer layers of the skull. Sometimes, they can insert implants to improve adult skull shape. Fat transfer, plastic surgery for plagiocephaly are other possible options.
When is it too late to correct a flat head?
After 14 months, any baby’s flat head syndrome treatment becomes less effective. This is because after 14 months, the baby’s skull bones would have harden up and the growth rate becomes very slow. In that case, there’s less opportunity for correction with a helmet or without a helmet.
My head is flat in the back, just slightly, but I don’t need a flat head surgery for adults. But if your baby has a small flat spot on back of baby’s head, immediately go for the flat head syndrome treatment with or without cranial helmet. Don’t wait, because you may not be able to pay for the flat head surgery cost.