Plagiocephaly is a common disorder in infants, but it may be alarming to parents. Knowing what plagiocephaly is, how to treat it, how to avoid it and what signs to watch out for can ease parents' fears and help keep infants safe.
What is it?
Babies' skulls are much softer than those of an adult and can easily become misshapen. Plagiocephaly is a disorder in which one area of a baby's skull can become flattened. This happens due to frequent pressure on the area. Often, this pressure comes from sleeping in the same position too often or the baby's positioning in the mother's womb. Plagiocephaly is most common in premature infants that have to stay in one position while receiving treatment. It is also common with multiple births due to limited space in the womb.
If plagiocephaly is not treated, the skull can harden while still in its misshapen state. This can cause facial asymmetry, visible flat spots and misaligned jaws.
How is it Treated?
Plagiocephaly is a very easily treatable disorder. Parents have several options when it comes to treatment. One of the easiest treatment options is using a plagiocephaly baby pillow with a concave design that supports the head while sleeping to reshape the skull and prevent flattening. Specialized headbands and shaping cups are also available. In more severe cases, plagiocephaly may need to be treated with the use of a molding helmet that corrects head shape. These helmets are custom-made to fit the baby's head and must be prescribed by a doctor.
Parents should take their infant to a doctor if they notice flattening of the skull. Their physician can confirm that they have plagiocephaly and not a more serious condition, such as craniosynostosis. They can also create a treatment plan to correct the plagiocephaly.
Is it Avoidable?
In some cases, plagiocephaly can be avoided. Parents can prevent flattening of the skull by using a plagiocephaly baby pillow, making sure the child does not spend too much time laying in the same position and giving the child tummy time every day. In other cases, such as the development of plagiocephaly in the womb, it is not avoidable.
What Are the Signs?
There are several indicators of plagiocephaly that parents should watch for. The baby may have visible flat areas on the back or sides of their head, an asymmetrical face, asymmetrical ears, an enlarged forehead on one side, a lack of a soft spot on top of the head or uneven cheek bones or eyes. If you notice any of these signs, start implementing repositioning techniques and tummy time immediately. If the child's skull does not quickly return to its normal shape, contact a physician.
A baby displaying signs of plagiocephaly is not a cause for alarm. The disorder is very common, easily treatable and typically will have no long term side effects if treated properly. If you are concerned that your child may develop the disorder, you can implement prevention techniques, such as repositioning and using plagiocephaly pillows. Always consult a physician before starting a new treatment regimen.