As a parent, seeing your baby's head shape change can be concerning. You may start to notice that your baby's head is flattening on one side, or the back of their head appears asymmetrical.
This condition is known as a flat head syndrome or positional plagiocephaly, and it affects many infants. But, did you know that babies wear helmets to treat this condition? In this blog post, we will explore why babies wear helmets, what flat head syndrome is, and how helmet therapy can help.
What Is Flat Head Syndrome?
Flat head syndrome or positional plagiocephaly is a condition in which an infant's head becomes flattened or misshapen due to prolonged pressure on one area.
This can occur if a baby spends too much time in the same position, such as lying on their back, or if they consistently turn their head to one side. Infants are susceptible to flat head syndrome because their skulls are soft and pliable, allowing their heads to change shape as they grow.
It is important to note that flat head syndrome does not cause any harm to a baby's brain, and it is a cosmetic issue that usually corrects itself over time. However, in severe cases, the flat head syndrome can lead to developmental delays or problems with the baby's neck muscles.
Why Babies Wear Helmets?
Babies wear helmets as a form of treatment for the flat head syndrome. Helmet therapy, also known as cranial orthotic therapy, involves fitting a baby with a custom-made helmet that helps to correct their head shape.
The helmet is designed to apply gentle, consistent pressure on the baby's skull to encourage growth in areas that are flattened or misshapen.
Helmet therapy is typically recommended for babies between the ages of 3 to 18 months, as their skull growth is most rapid during this time. If a baby's head shape does not improve after repositioning or physical therapy, helmet therapy may be recommended.
How Does Helmet Therapy Work?
The helmet used in helmet therapy is made of lightweight, durable material, such as foam or plastic. The helmet is custom-made based on the baby's head shape, and it fits snugly but comfortably on the head.
The helmet has spaces or cutouts in areas where the baby's head is already rounded, allowing for continued growth in those areas.
The helmet is worn for 23 hours a day, with a one-hour break for bathing and cleaning. As the baby's head grows, the helmet is adjusted every 1 to 2 weeks to ensure a proper fit. Helmet therapy typically lasts between 3 to 6 months, depending on the severity of the flat head syndrome.
Is Helmet Therapy Safe?
Helmet therapy is generally considered safe and non-invasive. The helmets used in therapy are designed to be lightweight and comfortable for the baby to wear. The helmets do not restrict the baby's movement or affect their brain growth.
However, like any medical treatment, there are some risks associated with helmet therapy. The helmet can cause skin irritation or discomfort, but these issues can usually be resolved by adjusting the helmet's fit or using special padding. Additionally, some babies may reject the helmet and refuse to wear it, making helmet therapy less effective.
Can Flat Head Syndrome Be Prevented?
The flat head syndrome can often be prevented by taking simple measures to vary a baby's head position. These measures include:
- Changing a baby's position regularly when they are lying down, such as alternating between lying on their back and their stomach.
- Holding a baby upright or carrying them in a baby carrier instead of using a car seat or stroller for extended periods.
- Using a firm, flat mattress and avoiding pillows or other soft bedding in a baby's sleep area.
Parents can also engage in tummy time with their babies to encourage movement and promote development.
The flat head syndrome is a common condition in infants, but it can be easily treated or prevented with the right measures. Parents should always consult their doctor if they have concerns about their baby's head shape or development.
How Long Will They Need To Wear It?
Helmet therapy typically lasts between 3 to 6 months, depending on the severity of the flat head syndrome. During this period, parents should ensure that the helmet fits correctly and is not causing any discomfort or skin irritation.
The helmet should be worn for 23 hours a day, with a one-hour break for bathing and cleaning. As the baby's head grows, the helmet is adjusted every 1 to 2 weeks to ensure a proper fit.
Is It Uncomfortable?
The helmet used in helmet therapy is designed to be lightweight and comfortable for the baby to wear. However, some babies may experience skin irritation or discomfort due to the fit of the helmet.
If this occurs, parents can adjust the helmet's fit or use special padding to make it more comfortable for their baby. Additionally, some babies may reject the helmet and refuse to wear it, making helmet therapy less effective.
This type of treatment is especially beneficial for newborns since their skulls are still relatively soft and malleable.
Helmet therapy is beneficial for babies since it can help reshape the skull and prevent further deformity. It is important to ensure that the helmet fits properly, as an ill-fitting helmet could cause discomfort or skin irritation.
Parents should also make sure they are providing their baby with plenty of tummy time and varying their sleeping positions to encourage movement and development. Additionally, parents should consult their doctor if they have any concerns about their baby's head shape or development.
The Bottom Line
It is important to understand why babies wear helmets and the benefits they offer. It helps reshape the baby's skull, allowing it to grow normally. Parents should ensure that the helmet fits correctly and their baby is comfortable wearing it for 23 hours a day.
Additionally, parents should take measures to vary their baby's position, such as engaging in tummy time and alternating between lying on their back and stomach. If parents have any concerns, they should consult their doctor.