Flat Head Syndrome – Plagiocephaly

What is happening?

It is common for a newborn baby to have an unusual head shape. This can be caused by either the position of the baby in the uterus during pregnancy,  by the birth process or even later simply from sleeping on their back.

In utero, the baby will naturally choose the most comfortable position. Often mums-to-be who have a history of musculoskeletal problems prior to her pregnancy will see the “old pain” re-surface while pregnant. They will naturally start developing a compensatory mechanism which can then develop into an area of restriction that might affect the growing uterus and therefore the position of the baby. An example would be an old or recurrent left hip pain that would restrict the lower left side of the abdomen and therefore invite the baby to stay on the right side with his head up, against the ribs.

At birth, the baby is subject to enormous pressure as the baby twist and turn to start their new journey into our world. Moulding of the soft bones of the head take place to enable  the baby to descend in the birth canal. While the baby’s head has the incredible ability to absorb  these stresses and recover naturally, many babies are born with odd shaped heads that remained for life if not addressed  in their first 12 months.

Flattening of the head in one area may also happen later if a baby lies with its head in the same position for a long time – common  for babies who develop a preference for a side and sleep on their back.

Here are the most common misshaped head examples:

plagiocephaly flat head syndrome

Plagiocephaly is mostly a cosmetic problem and won’t affect the baby’s brain and abilities. It is important to note that it  is not associated with developmental delays. However it might impede some  of the drainage mechanisms of the head and encourage congested noses, or glue ears.

Some babies cope extremely well with even quite severe retained moulding and compression while for some others, it might be more difficult to settle.

A paediatric osteopath will look at the causes of such flattening of the head and address the dysfunction accordingly. The treatment using the cranial approach is gentle, safe and effective for babies and children. Very specific, skilled, light pressure is applied where necessary to assist the natural ability of the body to release stresses and tensions and enable him to regain a better range of movements.

The number of treatments your baby might need would vary. Some babies will only need a consultation and a follow-up, but occasionally a baby may need four or five sessions before the parents see a result.

If you need to know more about how osteopathy can help with mums and babies, please do not hesitate to contact Stephanie James at info@osteoperformance.co.uk.