The condition is known as plagiocephaly, which means “oblique head” in Greek.
The study’s researchers observed 440 babies aged 7 to 12 weeks in four clinics across Calgary, Alberta, Canada. The results show that 46.6 percent of the participants had a form of plagiocephaly, says Aliyah Mawji, a registered nurse and the director of the study.
“The reason why we want to catch this early is because if we see children with flattened heads, sometimes there are changes in their facial features,” Mawji says.
Plagiocephaly is increasing among infants due to the Back to Sleep, now known as the Safe to Sleep, campaign, which began in 1994 to reduce incidences of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Because babies’ skulls are soft, lying in one position for a long period of time can create a flat spot.
Flat spots can also come from the birthing process, Mawji says.
If untreated, the flat areas can become permanent.
There are a few ways to help prevent plagiocephaly after birth. Firstly, while a child should still sleep on his or her back, parents should alternate which way a baby’s head is turned.
“If you notice that one night when you put your baby down, the head is to the right, you want to make sure that the next night you are turning the head to the left side,” Mawji explains.
It’s also important to not leave a baby in positioning devices, such as bouncy seats, for too long, as they put pressure on the head. Lastly, tummy time is essential and strengthens the arms, neck and head.
If a case of plagiocephaly is severe, cranial remolding helmets will help correct the flat spot. You can find out more about plagiocephaly and the helmets, which we offer at EastPoint, on our Cranial Helmets page.