Infant Adjustment

Why Does My Baby's Head Look Like That

Since the "Back to Sleep" movement, there has been an increase in in babies diagnosed with positional plagiocephaly. No, they aren’t dinosaurs. Plagiocephaly is the term also known as flat head syndrome. Characteristics involve asymmetrical distortion or flattening of one side of the skull. These flat spots are usually found on the back or side of the head caused by deformational forces such as the birth process or laying on the back for too long.

In almost all babies with plagiocephaly, there is some limit on the active neck movement that leads to a preference to turn the head to one side and not the other. This shortening of muscles on a one side of the neck is called torticollis. Many infants are born with torticollis. This may be due to fetal positioning during pregnancy or birth trauma. Babies with severe flattening have to work harder to turn their heads, so they refrain and cause their neck to become stiff from not using it.

Babies brains grow rapidly in the first several months of their life. During the growth process, the skull expands into its normal shape. Car seats, mattresses, swings and strollers have a great impact on the infant during this time especially since they sleep about 700 hours in the first 2 months. Premature babies are more prone to plagiocephaly since their bones are softer and spend a great deal of time on their backs to receive medical care. Your pediatrician may spot the signs of positional plagiocephaly by the 2 month check up.

Treatment for this plagiocephaly caused by sleeping position includes:

  • repositioning the infant’s head by turning them to the non-preffered side.
  • switching arms when holding them. Most right handed people hold their baby on left side and lay them to their left.
  • making sure your baby gets plenty of supervised “tummy time” while awake to promote strong neck muscles.
  • static stretching exercises
  • and severe cases may involve wearing a custom molded helmet

In all cases of positional plagiocephaly, especially cases aggravated by torticollis, see an ICPA chiropractor! Your ICPA chiropractor is trained to gently move babies cranial bones and reduce the spinal stress that induces torticollis. Reducing spinal stress will increase mobility in your infant's neck allowing them to change the position of their heads. Adjustments are gentle and safe for infants. Removing subluxations (misalignments in the spine) may not only eliminate facial and skeletal asymmetries, but reducing spinal stress may also allow your baby to have better sleep and be less fussy. To learn more about chiropractic and infants go to www.icpa4kids.org.

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