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Preventing Plagiocephaly: Avoid Baby Flat-Head Syndrome

written by: Keren Perles•edited by: Jacqueline Chinappi•updated: 3/18/2010

Positional Plagiocephaly, also called baby flat head syndrome, is a condition in which an infant’s head becomes misshapen and flat. It occurs when the skull’s plates begin to harden, and one of them hardens in an awkward position due to external pressure. This pressure usually happens when the inf

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    Alternating Positions

    The most important action you can take against positional plagiocephaly, or baby flat head syndrome, is to change the baby’s position often. Make sure to alternate the way his head faces in his crib, or perhaps move the entire crib once a week so that he will turn his head in different directions each time to see the rest of the room. In addition, if the infant is looking at a toy for a long period of time, try slowly moving the location of the toy so that the infant’s head changes positions accordingly.

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    Holding Positions

    Try to hold the baby over your shoulder while she is awake. There are various other holds that work to reduce the pressure on the infant’s head as well, such as tummy-down on your lap, or tummy-down across your linked hands.

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    Tummy Time

    Giving an infant tummy time is essential – and not just because of flat-head syndrome. Yes, putting an infant on his tummy more often will limit the pressure on the back of his head, but it will also help to develop the baby’s neck and chest muscles, which is imperative for proper development. All this said, do not put a child on his tummy to sleep. Tummy sleeping has been linked with an increased risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), and should be avoided. Even if putting an infant to sleep on his stomach would reduce positional plagiocephaly, SIDS is a far worse risk.

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    A Tip for Bottle Feeders

    If the baby is bottle-fed, make sure to change the baby’s position about halfway through each feeding. Unlike breastfed babies, most bottle-fed babies do not alternate positions during a feeding, which can put them at risk of developing positional plagiocephaly.

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    What to Avoid

    To prevent baby flat head syndrome, try to limit the amount of time that the baby spends in a carseat, bouncy seat, swing, or other device that puts pressure on the back of her head. This is especially true when the infant is awake, as it is beneficial for a baby to be held or propped upright during that time.