During our tour of the hospital when I was pregnant, at the hospital when I was giving birth, and at just about every doctor appointment in between and since, we have been told about the Back to Sleep campaign. The Back to Sleep campaign is the new push to put infants to sleep on their backs rather than on their stomachs as it has been found that babies sleeping on their stomachs are at a much higher risk for SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Because we are rule followers, and my husband has a huge fear of SIDS thanks to the nurses at the hospital, we never co-slept, we never put pillows or any other object in the crib, and we always put my son to sleep on his back. We did everything by the book.
When he was about two months, I noticed one side of his head was flatter than the other. At first, I didn’t think much of it, we just started holding him on the opposite side to see if that helped. It didn’t. At his 4 month doctor appointment, I brought it up to our pediatrician. By this point I had done extensive research online and was considerably worried. Here is what I found out:
Flat head syndrome or Positional Plagiocephaly is becoming more and more common with the Back to Sleep campaign. Some physicians say about 50% of babies now develop a flat spot at some point. It is caused by the infant sleeping in the same position on their head for large amounts of time over and over. It is very common, but there is still a lot unknown about it because it is so new. A lot of kids with Flat Head Syndrome wear a helmet to help reshape their head back to normal.
At my son’s 4 month appointment, the pediatrician checked his head and neck (one of the main concerns with Flat Head Syndrome is that they will develop Torticollis which is the tightening of the neck muscles and can cause developmental delays). Luckily, the doctor said his case was very minor and he did not have any muscle tightening. Basically, it was just a cosmetic issue. The doctor took pictures of his head and said he would do the same in a month and we will see if it had improved. If it hadn’t, he would get fitted for a helmet.
I was determined to not have my kid in a helmet (looking back I realize how vain that was, but hey, it is what it is). So, I did everything in my power to keep my son off of his flat spot. We did A TON of tummy time, moved his head to the opposite direction when he slept, and did our best to hold him in a way that we weren’t pressing on the flat spot. In my Googling, I also found the Tortle (like a beanie the baby can wear when they sleep that moves their head so they are not laying on the flat spot). We used that as often as we could, but it does slip off after about an hour of sleep.
After a month, we went back to the pediatrician, he took pictures, and determined that it had gotten better. (Yay!) I was so relieved. He said it should continue to get better and a helmet would not be necessary. However, I had A LOT of moms with children in the same position that urged me to get a second opinion. They swore by their child’s helmets and assumed my son needed one too. Here is why we chose not to push for a helmet:
- We trust our pediatrician – he has been absolutely amazing and I believe he knows what he’s doing. We believe him that it will continue to get better with time. And even if it doesn’t, it has come so far, that we believed a helmet wouldn’t do much anyways and if his head stays the way it is it’s ok because the flatness is so minimal.
- In our research, we found that there is no proof that helmets work. There is no proof that the improvements made with helmets are due to the actual helmet or if they would have improved the same amount just with time.
- Because our son’s case was mild, it did not cause any tightness in the muscles which would not cause any delays in development.
To us, a helmet just did not seem necessary. And unless it was necessary we didn’t want to have to do it. They are very cumbersome – you have to wear them 23 hours a day. In most stories we read the kids hated them, cried when they were on, had trouble sleeping with them, etc. I didn’t want to put my son through that if we didn’t have to.
My son’s head still isn’t perfectly round, but what I’ve realized is no one’s is. And 99% of people don’t even notice his flat spot now (unless they are family and knew about it before). He is a happy, healthy adorable baby and we are satisfied with our decision.