When babies often turn their heads to the same side, we speak of a preferred position. Sometimes this goes away within a few weeks but usually not. One in five babies has a preferred posture whereby a preference for the right side is more common than a preference for the left side. It is important for the development of your baby that a preferred posture is prevented. Does your baby have a preferred posture? Then there is a big chance that the head will flatten out on one side (flattened head) and may grow crooked.
A flattened head often occurs in babies. The advice is to let babies sleep on their backs to prevent cot death. As a result, the back of their head rests more often in the mattress, so it is not at all surprising if your baby has a flattened head.
Because the head is not round but lopsided, a flattened head is sometimes called a lopsided head. A lopsided head is therefore the same as a flattened head. The medical term is Plagiocephaly (Plagio means flat and Cephaly means head).
Can all babies have a flattened head?
The risk of a crooked or flattened head is greatest in the first four months. Then the baby’s skull is still soft and therefore easily shaped. Research has shown that the babies listed below have an increased risk of a preferred position:
- Premature babies
- Babies born in a breech position
- Babies with a curvature of the spine (scoliosis)
- Bottle-fed babies.
- A flattened head is more common in boys than in girls.
What are the consequences of a preferred posture?
When your child has a preferred posture, there is a good chance of a flattened head. This has no consequences for the development of the brain. However, a preferred position can have negative consequences for the symmetrical development of your child; ears that are not aligned or a head that is not perfectly round. In some cases, a preferred posture can cause a crooked position of the neck. The muscles of the neck can get used to this, making it difficult to turn the head in the other direction. This is called torticollis.
How can you prevent a flattened head?
Because a flattened head is almost always the result of a preferred posture, it is important that you detect a preferred posture as early as possible. Therefore, pay close attention to your child’s posture during sleeping, feeding, changing and playing. Does he look to one side more often in his crib, while being changed or in the playpen? Does he often reach for toys in one particular corner of the playpen? Does he have a preference during feeding?
Tips for sleeping
Lay your baby on its back in bed, alternating its head from side to side. Never let your baby sleep on its stomach. This increases the risk of cot death. Does your child already have a preferred posture? Then try to put his head in the other direction in his sleep. Does this not work? Then you can let your baby sleep on his side in the sleep wrap, if he is not yet too mobile. The Sleep Wrap ensures that your baby cannot turn around in his bed and can better lie on his side. The Sleep Wrap fits around any cot or cot mattress and is safe to use. You can also put your baby to sleep safely on its back in the Sleep Wrap without the danger of rolling over, slipping under the bedclothes or wandering around in bed.
Tips for feeding and changing
Make sure that you stand on the opposite side from the preferred position during nappy changing and make nappies a party. Alternate between holding your baby in your left and right arm while feeding him. When breastfeeding, this happens automatically; when bottle-feeding, it takes some practice. The Snoozzz Nursing pillow can help with this. The flexible shape and soft padding ensure sufficient support. Accidents are not a problem, as the soft cover is removable and machine washable.
Tips for wearing
Carry your baby alternately on the left and right arm or shoulder. Use a Burp cloth to protect your clothes. Snoozzz wipes are nice and big and easy to wash. Try carrying your baby on his tummy on your forearm. They often like this and it also helps to prevent colic.
Tips for the day
Babies often turn their heads towards the light. Place the playpen in such a way that the window is on the other side of the preferred position. A merry mobile with music can also help. Place it on the opposite side from the preferred position. Regularly lay your baby on its stomach; this is also good for the development of the neck muscles. If your baby is still very young, you can use a cradle for this. Using the Snoozzz Nursing pillow. Lay your baby on the breast on the breastfeeding pillow; they love it and the world opens up! Only do the prone exercises when you are there and keep a close eye on your baby.
Are the above tips not helping and does your baby still have a preferred posture?
Then contact the paediatric physiotherapist. The paediatric physiotherapist has a special method for measuring the flattened head by means of a tape. This measurement method is called plagiocephalometry, better known as the PCM measurement. The paediatric physiotherapist can give you more tips and advice. In the past, helmet therapy was also sometimes used, but this appears to cause skin irritation in the majority of children and has no added value. You can contact the paediatric physiotherapist directly or via the child health centre.