Between 20 and 30 percent of children develop head deformities, often created when infants lay in the same spot for a long time.
But now a new study has offered hope for parents who can't afford the $2,000 therapeutic helmets often prescribed to infants with flattened heads: stretching exercises and special pillows, researchers from University of Geissen in Germany have found.
"These are probably easier options for some parents," study co-author Dr. Jan-Falco Wilbrand, of the University of Giessen, told Reuters. "The helmet has to be worn 24 hours a day and is expensive. Physiotherapy is something you can do at home and easily...and the pillow is about $25."
Plus: Avoiding a Flat Head
The number of deformities (most commonly “flat head”, also known as plagiocephaly) increased from 5 percent during the 1990s to between 20 percent and 30 percent in 2008, and are often caused when an infant lays in one spot for too long. An infant’s neck isn’t yet strong enough to move their head from one position to another, yet the skull is still fusing and forming, meaning that the bone growth can be affected by even slight steady pressure.
The German study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, concluded that “spontaneous improvements” can be made with therapy and pillows for children between five and seven months old. The American Academy of Pediatrics, however, cautions against pillows of any kind in babies' cribs.
After seven months, babies become more mobile and can move their heads around on their own.
The best guard against head deformities is to move your baby. If her eyes are open after a nap or nighttime sleep, flip her over for tummy time. Keep an eye on how long your baby rests on one side of her head in the car seat on long trips.
Have you dealt with “flat head?” What therapeutic remedies worked for you?