All you need to know about using helmets to treat the condition, plus advice and support for worried mums and dads
Flat head syndrome is on the rise, and you may feel confused as a new parent about the best method of treatment, as there continues to be uncertainty among the experts. Doctors may recommend a physiotherapist or an osteopath if they’re worried about your baby’s neck, but often, you’ll be reassured that the condition will correct itself with time. Specially designed helmets that mould to the baby’s head are also claiming to solve the syndrome, but at £2000 each, they aren’t the cheapest form of treatment.
Opinions on the use of helmet therapy vary between professionals. Stephen Mottram is a clinical specialist orthodist for Ossur, the company behind Technology in Motion, which provides advice on orthopaedic braces and supports. He says, “I believe that helmets make a significant difference and so do the many parents we see. Without them, many infants continue into childhood with head shape irregularities.”As with any product you consider for your baby, it’s important to do your research beforehand. Ian Wacogne, Consultant in Paediatrics at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, believes parents need to think carefully before deciding a helmet is the best option for their child. “The very serious cases of this condition only affects a small group of children. Even out of these serious cases, almost all of them get better with time and within 18 months; parents are often saying “what funny shaped head?”
Babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep but their heads should be moved to the side, alternating each night.
Dawn Telfer from Plagiocephalycare
It’s completely down to you as a parent to decide what’s best for your baby. Dr Platt has suggested worried mums and dads talk to their GP, or a specialist such as the London Orthotic Consultancy. Clinical director Jo Drake says there is no right way of treating flat head syndrome, as every case is different. “It’s ultimately the parent’s decision, but we offer plenty of advice. If the baby is 4-7 months old, we’ll suggest the parents re-position their baby while sleeping.”She explains that if the child is showing resistance to being re-positioned, or has a particularly severe head shape, helmet therapy will be recommended. “We give parents all the information they need to make a decision for themselves. Every case is different and the best treatment depends on a number of factors which we can assess.”
Philip Saich was concerned after his son developed a flat head at 4-months-old in 2005. “We noticed one side of Ben’s skull was very flat, so we took him to the GP. But we actually had a frustrating experience with the NHS, as our consultancy appointment was cancelled for no valid reason.”However, after Philip’s wife Karen attended a toddler group and noticed a young child wearing a helmet, they decided helmet therapy would be the best option for Ben. After wearing the helmet for around four months, his head shape was perfect. Philip and Karen set up a charity, Headstart4babies, shortly after, to offer help and advice to parents, as well as raise funds for low-income families who are unable to afford the helmets. Philip says the key to helping parents deal with the condition is education. “We aim to raise awareness and work with health officials so that eventually, fewer babies need helmets. I’m aware of the scepticism surrounding helmets, but they can help a number of families.”
Hello Made for Mums!
Read with interest your information on Flat Head Syndrome. I had my first born back in 2003 and faced this condition that I previously never heard of. When my daughter Joella was 4 months I became very worried about her flat head (back right of head was very flat). My GP adviced: "it will go away on its own and if not, let her hair grow long to cover it". I was shocked at this poor advice, and saught a second opinion from a Swedish paediatrician on my next trip back to Sweden ( I am Swedish but living in the UK). I was very surprised by what they recommended - to use a baby pillow as that is standard practice in Sweden. These baby pillows are used specifically to prevent and treat Plagiocephaly/ Flat Head Syndrome. Doubtfull at first and with the UK Dept of Health's guideline in the back of my head (advices against pillows for babies under 12 months) I bought a baby pillow and was surprised how comforting my daughter found it. She slept on it every night from then on and after around 3 months her head had grown back in a nice pea round shape (she was then 8 months old). The soft baby pillow had removed the pressure on her head from the flat surface underneath.
I was so impressed I researched the Swedish baby pillow treatment method, spoke to numerous Swedish doctors etc and decided to set up a website informing parents and doctors in the UK along with selling the Swedish type of baby pillow for flat head syndrome. That was all back in 2005. My website, Lilla Kuddis Baby Pillows is still running successfully and an ever increasing number of doctors, peadiatricians, health visitors, Osteopaths etc are now recommending my Swedish Lilla Kuddis baby pillows to their young patients following on from the good result they have seen in their other patients.
In 2006 I had another little girl, Maddie. She used her Lilla Kuddis baby pillow from her first night home and every night since. Hence she always had a beautifully round little head.
Many parents write to us thanking us for the Lilla Kuddis baby pillows and how pleased they are with the improvement of their baby's head.
In 2000 the Swedish Dept of Health changed their guideline in favour of bay pillows saying ALL newborn and babies should use a soft baby pillow to support their head when sleeping. Babies should always sleep on their back with both head and shoulders on the baby pillow.
Flat head syndrome affect nearly half of all babies under 1 year. It is a shame there is so little information in the UK about how to prevent and treat it. For moderate to medium flat head developements, a soft baby pillow along with repositioning and tummy time during daytime play (without the pillow) are an effective trio to prevent and treat flat head syndrome. Helmets is a good option for very severe cases. The vast majority of flat head syndrome cases are not severe.
Hope this information will be as useful to other worried parents as it was to me when I had my little girl.
Anna, mum of Joella & Maddie
I was horrified last summer when I realised my second little chap had a flat spot having never had any problems with our first and felt terrible that I'd not noticed it happening. I first took him to the osteopath and after a couple of sessions he was improving but I decided to then take him to a cranial osteopath - no tears, no ugly or costly helmets required and just a couple of months later it's all sorted, well I did invest in the 'lovenest' pillow for all of £13.
I would always recommend treating the root cause rather than simply the symptom and at least osteopathy and cranial osteopathy take into account the whole of the child, not just one part!
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