Raise your hand if your little one has a flat head on one side. (My hand is up).
Plagiocephaly/ flat head syndrome is very common in babies, especially since the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending that babies sleep on their backs to decrease the risk of SIDS... and it doesn't help that babies just have soft heads.
One cause of plagiocephaly is baby spending too much time flat on their back in a crib or in a car seat; this is called positional plagiocephaly, and is, in fact, preventable. But this type of plagiocephaly is not part of my journey with wonky-headed babies.
My son was born with torticollis, or a "crick in the neck." Because he was my first born, and I was just trying to figure out all these news things, like breastfeeding and not sleeping, it took me about 2 weeks to notice that my son only held his head in one position. He was unable to move his head to the right side.
I thought I was crazy, but I talked to his doctor about it anyway. We started doing stretches with his neck that helped tremendously within days, but by this time, he had a nice flat spot on the back, left side of his head. His head did not require a helmet for reshaping, because it was minor, and it ended up reshaping itself rather nicely. It's not perfect, but it is much better.
Enter my third born... she had this perfect, tiny little round head right from the start. Being my third baby, I picked up on things a lot faster, and I noticed within days that she was not able to turn her head one way.
The answer from the doctor was two-fold. First, my belly had stopped growing in my pregnancy. She continued to grow, but I did not. When this happens, the baby is often stuck in a position and they are unable to turn their head. This is why torticollis and plagiocephaly are more common in twins. They just run out of space in there.
The second thing brought to my attention was her position in delivery. She decided to come into the world face up and they had tried to turn her to the correct position a little late into the delivery game( if I can even refer to it as that). There was a possibility of a neck injury, but moreover, I didn't know exactly why she, too, was only able to turn her head one way.
But this girl does not have the mellow nature of my son, in fact, she is the exact opposite of my son. She is extremely determined to do what she wants and only that. Long story short, by the time she was a month old, her plagiocephaly was severe. She screamed through neck stretches, tummy time, and well... everything.
At that time, our insurance covered the cost of a helmet to help reshape her head, which I was very grateful for because THEY ARE NOT CHEAP. With the child that I previously described, how do you think that went? Not well... not well at all.
With the helmet she screamed for hours on end... hours and hours and hours and hours. For weeks she wouldn't sleep for more than 10 minutes at a time. "Wait it out," they said. "She will get used to it," they said. After many, many weeks of an angry, sleep-deprived mother and child, I threw in the towel. You see, plagiocephaly is only cosmetic, but it can shift the ears and forehead if it becomes severe. My daughter's brain was never at risk, but with the shift in her ears, we went for it.
Today, I have a beautiful wonky-headed 18 month old that fought me tooth and nail to get out of a helmet. All I can say is that I hope she puts that determination to excellent use one day. Her story may not be as successful, but I know many, many infants that wore a helmet without a complaint... what I would have given for that.
And let's just be real... babies look freakin' adorable in helmets, but it is no walk in the park. If you think your baby might have torticollis, talk to your doctor about it, and MAKE. TUMMY-TIME. HAPPEN.
Andrea worked as a Registered Nurse in a Pediatric Emergency Department for 10 years before leaving to be a full-time/homeschooling Mommy to her three beautiful and crazy children.