New guidelines for flat head syndrome

Helmets may not be necessary, as experts recommend other methods to mend plagiocephaly


The number of babies getting flat head syndrome, known as plagiocephaly, is on the increase. As medical experts now recommend babies sleep on their back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death (SIDS), the risk of babies skulls becoming flattened is higher.


“Babies spend almost all their time on their back,” says pediatrician Dr James Laughlin, who has produced a new report about the condition. “That leads to some positional flattening or molding of the head, depending on how the baby sleeps.”

Dr James’ report aims to inform medical professionals about the condition and ways to treat it that avoid babies having to wear plagiocephaly helmets to reshape their skulls. He added that the condition was “entirely cosmetic” and did not post a developmental risk to babies.

“There is currently no evidence that molding helmets work any better than positioning for infants with mild or moderate skull deformity,” his report argues.

The report recommends:

  • Increase tummy time
  • Change the way your baby lies in her cot each week, this encourages your baby to look around, rather then keep her head in a single position
  • Lay your baby down in a different way, especially if she seems to prefer to hold her head on one side
  • Cuddle!
  • Don’t be tempted to let your baby stay too long in her bouncer or car seat as this can encourage other growth and development problems
  • Don’t panic! Repositioning should be the initial treatment and very often the problem goes away on its own. If you’re concerned, speak to your GP

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