Will Plagiocephaly Correct Itself? What you need to know!

"flat head"

If you clicked on this article, then your baby may have plagiocephaly, or “flat head”. Plagiocephaly, also referred to as “flat head”, is when your baby develops flattening on the sides or back of their head. And if your baby has already developed some type of flattening then you are in the right place. When we discuss flattening of the head, we can think flattening of the back, also called brachycephaly, which is a result of your baby laying on the back of their head for a prolonged time. We can also think flattening of the sides, also called plagiocephaly, which is a result of your baby laying on one side of their head for a prolonged time. Both of these terms, brachycephaly and plagiocephaly, are referred to as types of “flat head”. Now, that’s just some necessary background information, but I know the real reason you are here is to get an answer to the question “Will Plagiocephaly Correct Itself?”. So, let’s dive in!

First, so you know who I am, I am a mom and occupational therapist (OT) specializing in conservative head shape correction without a helmet. I have been specializing in this area for the past 12+ months after dealing with flattening in my own son, now 16 months. After being told that his head would correct itself with more tummy time, I realized that wasn’t the case when we were on the cusp of a helmet at 4 months. I quickly made it my mission to develop a strategic program to correct his head in the same way a helmet would and the rest is history. From my personal experience, I have made it my mission to a) help more parents correct their infant’s head shape without a helmet and b) bring more awareness to this topic so parents are better informed.

So now that you know more about me, let’s get to answering the question “Will Plagiocephaly Correct Itself?”

The honest truth is that there is no clear answer and before we dig into that we need to understand how “flat head” develops. Plagiocephaly, and brachycephaly, develop when our babies spend a prolonged amount of time on one area of their head. Now, this can get very technical but an easy way to explain how the head changes is to compare our baby’s heads to balloon. If you were to lay a balloon on a surface and press gently, the balloon would begin to bulge in areas where the air has been redistributed. Here is a visual of this demonstrated if you’re interested! This redistribution is based on the force applied. And with that example in mind, our baby’s heads are the exact same way. When they lay for a prolonged period of time, the mass of the skull and skull plates shift, resulting in a redistribution of mass. This redistribution of mass requires some type of counter pressure to restore the shape. But, the real question in this situation is how much counter pressure is enough…?

Understanding this brings me to my first point.

If your baby is 4 months old, then the answer to the question “Will Plagiocephaly Correct Itself at 4 months?” is probably not. At 4 months, your baby has spent a prolonged period of time laying on one area of their head. At this age your baby is also begining to roll and enjoy tummy time, so the amount of time spent on their head is decreasing day by day. With this being say, your baby will not be able to apply specific counter pressure to restore the shape on their own making it very unlikely that your baby’s flattening will resolve on it’s own. This is why we need to help implement a program with our babies at this age that encourages specific counter pressure, operating much like a helmet, to restore the shape. As your baby continues to grow after 4 months, they will only become more active so if your baby’s head is already flat then there is no need to wait to correct your baby’s head shape. Submit this form here and I will assess your baby’s head shape completely free to see if my services would benefit your baby.

Now, what about 2 months old?

2 months old is tricky. If your baby has VERY MILD flattening, then your baby’s head shape MAY resolve on its own. With that being said, the key is that your baby does not continue to lay on that one area of the head too much. If your baby is continuing to resolve to that side they prefer or keep their head in the center all the time, then the answer is your baby’s head will probably not round out on its own. I always tell the parents that I work with that you really don’t want to gamble with “flat head”, even at this age. Postponing and “waiting to see” is only going to 1) stress you out and 2) be harder to fix when your baby is older. It’s always best to go ahead and address the problems as early as possible and not wait around because then things just get more complicated. Waiting may result in a cranial helmet later in infancy and at this age, even in severe cases we can tackle your baby’s flattening with a specific repositioning program and move on! So, the answer to the question above at 2 months, is only if the flattening is VERY mild.

Now let’s talk about 6 months+…

If your baby is over 6 months, then TIME IS PRECIOUS. You do not need to wait to see if your baby’s head will resolve, because in reality your baby is on their head less and less now that they are beginning to sitting independently. The likelihood of your baby’s head rounding out by itself at this age is slim to none, but you need to establish a plan to correct the shape. Your baby has spent ALOT of time laying on those areas of flattening and they will not be able to properly lay on the areas of target to restore the shape at this age on their own. A helmet shouldn’t be your first option, a strategic repositioning program to redistribute the skull mass should. Your baby may respond very well to a repositioning program and you could have their head shape corrected within 4-6 weeks of beginning my program. Through my program, you will start to actively work to round the head during your baby’s daily activities doing the same thing a helmet would. At this age, your baby needs us to intervene and help and we can do that for them! So, if your baby’s head is still flat at 6 months+, then it’s NOT going to fix itself and it’s time to TAKE CONTROL.

Lastly, if your baby is crawling on all fours, sleeping on their belly, and rolling well both ways — it’s most likely time to begin the helmetting process. My “Flat Head” Correction program works best before your baby is completing all of the previously mentioned activities. At this more active stage, an orthotic helmet, if available in your area is the best option for you. If helmets are not available in your area, then we can definitely work together to improve your baby’s head shape through a few very specific positions and actvities. A good thing to remember is that most helmet companies will not helmet after 12 months, so if your baby is approaching that age you need to take action NOW. You do not want to regret fixing your baby’s head shape when they are older. I talk to many parents day in and day out that still see flattening on their baby’s heads when they are well over 1 year old. This is because they did not understand how crucial resolving these issues can be. That breaks my heart because that was not the parents fault, but a lack of education provided by the healthcare providers in their area.

At the end of the day, the real answer to the question “Will Plagiocephaly Correct Itself?” is why wait?

Time is so precious in the first year because so many shifts and changes happen, including our babies growing heads. I want you to be confident that you addressed your baby’s flattening before it was too late! Don’t just keep postponing hoping it would resolve until it doesn’t. One thing I am sure of is that my “Flat Head” Correction program has helped parents all over the world, 600+ and counting with 97% of them avoiding a helmet and I am here to help you too! I am here to serve my clients in correcting their babies head through online meetings and online course, but I also help them navigate what’s best for their baby in a non-biased way. I do believe in cranial helmets as a way to correct severe head shape changes, but I am certain that you will not regret tackling this conservatively first in hopes that your baby can avoid the helmet all together. Don’t forget to submit this form here and I will assess your baby’s head shape completely free to see if my services would benefit your baby.

I hope this was helpful!

Thanks for reading,
Brooke, OTR/L

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