Noticing a flat spot or an abnormal head shape can concern new parents, but you're not alone.
The goal of this at-home assessment is to help parents better understand their baby's head shape and monitor for any signs of plagiocephaly.
Before you begin to assess your baby for flat spots, it's important to distinguish what's normal from abnormal.
And while every baby's head will be unique, the following characteristics are common of a normal head shape:
Note: It is possible that you may notice a combination of these varying head shapes. This is increasingly more common, specifically with plagiocephaly and brachycephaly appearing together. Variations in shape ranging from mild to severe can also occur. Your baby's head shape may differ from the reference photos provided for each assessment.
Keep in mind that as you walk through the various assessments, it's important to remember that plagiocephaly can present as a variety of head shapes.
In other words, a baby with plagiocephaly may show different signs of abnormality when compared to a baby with brachycephaly.
To assess from above, start by looking down at the top of your baby's head while they're sitting in someone's lap.
Please keep in mind that it is possible your baby could have a combination of the listed traits.
Next, with your baby still seated on someone's lap, or looking into a mirror.
Normally, the back of the head is curved and both sides of the head will match both in symmetry and proportion.
The ear alignment test is often a useful indicator to assess for signs of deformational plagiocephaly.
A more noticeable misalignment indicates a more severe condition.
However, this test may not reveal any disproportion in the facial features as seen with other head shapes.
Since you see your baby’s face every day, it can be easy to miss gradual changes to the facial features.
Place your baby in front of a mirror or look directly at the face while they're sitting in someone else's lap.
Lastly, lay your baby flat on his or her back with their face looking directly up toward the ceiling. From here, we can assess the angle and shape of the forehead, as well as the overall shape of the head.
A physician will recommend helmet therapy if the condition is severe enough where mild intervention will not correct the issue.
The good news is that mild cases of plagiocephaly can often resolve over time with proper repositioning techniques and supervised tummy time. These physical therapy activities help or encourage the baby to alter their head position frequently so even growth occurs.
Determining the correct course of treatment for your baby will require a proper diagnosis from a medical doctor or plagiocephaly specialist.
Due to the increasing severity of head shapes today, our research has not shown self-correction in most cases. Remember that an external force was present to cause the deformity, therefore an external force must also be present to correct it. Once your baby is sitting up and moving about, the skull will continue to harden without any external force directing the head’s growth into a symmetrical shape.
For children less than 4 months old, supervised tummy time and repositioning techniques can sometimes be enough to correct an abnormal head shape.
Please note that this assessment is not meant to replace the diagnosis of a medical professional.
If you’re concerned about your baby’s head shape, you can schedule a free evaluation at the clinic location nearest you.
Simple at-home practices including supervised tummy time and repositioning techniques are known to prevent and improve abnormal head shapes up until about four months of age. Additionally, limiting the use of convenience devices, such as car seats, infant carriers and swings, is also recommended.