Is My Baby’s Head Round Enough?

1216

You have a new baby.  You gaze adoringly at your gorgeous (of course) little bundle, entranced by his* very existence.  A few months later, when the afterglow of hormones has receded and you’ve (sort of) figured out how to care for the little darling, you still think he’s gorgeous; but you notice that the back of his head is flat.  Or perhaps it’s the side of his head that has a flat spot?  Is this normal?  What do you do?  He supposed to have a perfectly round head, right?  Someone quick, offer advice!

I went through this with my son.  I received a lot of interesting advice, but I would have handled it differently had I more information early on.  Below are my personal thoughts on what I would suggest.  Just to be clear, I am not a doctor or any kind of medical professional.  This is simply my opinion on the subject based on my personal experience. 

So, what should you do if you think your baby’s head is misshapen?

First, go see your GP.  You need to check your baby doesn’t have torticollis. Torticollis is when a baby’s neck is turned due to positioning in the womb and they may have shortened neck muscles.  Do not worry if your child does have torticollis as it is treatable through physio. You just want to make sure your baby’s neck (that he can barely hold up) has a full range of motion.

Assuming that is fine you, will probably be told the following from your GP: All babies have flatter heads since we started putting them on their backs to sleep. Don’t worry it will round out.  It won’t have any effect on his brain or development.  Give him more tummy time and should be fine.

This is good advice and mostly true.  Try to notice if you baby always sleeps on one particular side.  See if you can get him to sleep with his head facing the other way by repositioning.  If your baby constantly rolls their head to the same side despite repositioning ask your GP to refer you to physio.  Physio can teach you safe exercises for helping your baby turn the other way.  Also, sling your baby more if you can, because in a sling the head is not lying flat on a hard surface like it does in a pram.  

If a few months pass and your baby’s head is not improving or it looks even more misshapen, you can consider helmet therapy.  Helmet therapy is not covered by the NHS as this is purely for cosmetic purposes.  It will cost upwards of £1,000 for the treatment, so this is not an easy decision.

I spent many agonizing months debating whether to put my son in a helmet or not.  As they’re not recommended by the NHS, many doctors do not have a lot of information about this treatment and its effectiveness.  I was lucky, a family member worked at Great Ormond Street and arranged an appointment for me to speak to a top consultant there.  Here is what he said:  Do helmets help?  Yes.  Will it correct on its own?  Also yes.  So it is very hard to determine how much is the effect of the helmet and how much would have self-corrected.  His opinion was that helmets do help in severe cases.  He then took one look at my son and said, This is severe.  Although this was hard to hear him maligning my perfect little angel, at least now I knew what I needed to do. 

How do you know if it is severe? 

This is a personal choice and really comes down to your perception.  Here are some questions that may be helpful to you in coming up with your own assessment:

Is the flatness just in the back of the head?  Many babies have a flat back of the head and the very back of the head will be covered by hair eventually. 

Is the flatness on the back and side of the head?  If the flatness is on the side of the head this can cause facial asymmetry. My son’s forehead and cheekbone protruded on one side.  Can’t tell if there’s asymmetry?  Here is an easy way to judge- have your baby sit on someone’s lap and stand above him and look down.  Are the ears even or is one ear closer to the face than the other?  Try on a pair of sun glasses.  Do they sit evenly or does one side touch a cheek bone and the other have a big gap?   I don’t think I realized how bad it was until the doctor pointed out these things. 

Another option is to have an assessment of your kid’s head with a 3D scan. I can personally recommend London Orthodics and Dr Saeed Hamid.  They will do a 3D scan of your baby’s head and discuss its symmetry or asymmetry.  Once you have a clear understanding of the situation, you’re better able to discuss your options.  The clinic does helmet therapy but I find they do not push their helmets on you.  It really comes down to your personal view of the flatness.  For example, at one point he took a measurement of my daughter and pointed out her head was pretty flat too.  WHAT???  I was shocked.  I thought she was the twin with the gorgeous round head!  Did she need a helmet, too?  The doctor told me that she was fine.  See, when you look at her from above, her head is more oval than a circle.  He explained that no one’s head is perfectly symmetrical!  We are all more like Minions than bobble heads. 

Helmet therapy is not for everyone but I firmly believe it helped our son.  It did not hurt him and he got used to it quickly.  Children who wear helmets will require a bath every night and you have to dress them in less clothes as they get warm; but apart from that, it was not bad at all.  Helmet therapy is typically six months; but the earlier you start, the faster and better the results.  My son had his helmet for over a year.  I think if I had put him in the helmet sooner, he would have been in it for less time, but I was a new mum. I second guessed myself and every opinion.  I agonized over the decision, because that is what new parents do- and that is OK. 

Today, my gorgeous boy still entrances me by his very existence. 

 

I hope this is helpful.  You can post questions below or I am happy to speak to Gin Fund parents directly as well.

*From above- I have decided to use the HE pronoun as flat head syndrome is more common in boys than in the girls. 

Also, flat head syndrome is more common in twins who are squashed in the womb and don’t have as much room to adjust their position.  My daughter took up a lot of space and didn’t leave my son much room, this is still going on today. 

 

 

 

 

SHARE
Mary is a feminist, an English teacher and a first time mum who lives in south-east London. She is spending her maternity leave cycling round London on her Dutch cargo-bike, running with her pushchair, and trying to dress her long-suffering little girl in gender-neutral clothing. She blogs at marybuggyrunning.blogspot.com.