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Bringing a baby home from the hospital is very exciting. But it can also be a scary time as you navigate the first few months as a parent. The list of things you have to worry about as your child develops can seem endless. Being on the lookout for health issues in your infant is part and parcel of parenting.

One of the most common concerns for new parents is the shape of the baby’s head. You’ll want to know as early as possible whether or not it’s a serious condition that requires further attention. This blog will discuss common skull deformities in babies and the remedies available for them.

Types of Cranial Deformities in Babies

Babies’ heads are usually soft at birth to help them pass through the birth canal and take around 18 months to get fully formed. Cranial deformities can show up during this period as their skulls are still developing. The most common cranial deformities in babies are:

  • Positional plagiocephaly
  • Torticollis
  • Craniosynostosis

1. Positional Plagiocephaly 

Positional plagiocephaly, also known as deformational plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome, is a condition in which specific areas of an infant’s head develop an abnormally flattened shape and appearance. It’s often caused by the baby consistently lying on its back. But in rare cases, especially multiple or premature births, positional plagiocephaly can occur at birth depending on the baby’s position in the womb.

How is positional plagiocephaly treated?

There are no preventive measures you can take to prevent the flat head syndrome. The pressure of birth can make newborns have unusually shaped heads. In some cases, the condition can resolve itself within six weeks.

There are also other techniques you can use to correct positional plagiocephaly. They include:

  • Alternating the sleeping positions of the head. This is for all the areas of the head to receive equal pressure during sleep.
  • Begin tummy time from birth, up to fifteen minutes per day within the first eight weeks. This should be supervised if the baby cannot sit for long periods of time.
  • When your child is on his or her back, gently turn the head to the side that’s not flat
  • When you hold the baby, make sure there is no pressure on the flattened side of the head
  • Place a toy on the good side of the head to encourage the baby to turn and take the pressure off the flat side

These methods are usually effective in treating flat head syndrome. But in some instances, the baby may need a corrective helmet. Helmet therapy is used to gently correct the shape of babies’ skulls over time. They work by redirecting head growth.

It’s advisable to discuss the pros and cons of using a custom-made cranial helmet with a baby cranial specialist. 

Find a plagiocephaly treatment center near you. 

2. Torticollis

Torticollis refers to a tight muscle on one side of the neck. It’s a condition that causes the baby to hold his/ her neck to one side and results in positional head deformity. The tilted neck position can cause changes to the child’s face and head shape over time.

Torticollis is also referred to as a wryneck. The condition is more likely to occur in firstborn children and the primary cause is unknown. It might happen from being cramped inside the uterus or in an unusual position (such as being in the breech position). Other causes include:

  • Neck muscle injury at birth
  • Neck muscle spasm
  • Burn injury
  • Injuries that cause muscle shrinkage or heavy scarring
  • Sleeping in an awkward position

Signs of a wry neck begin to show between two to four weeks after birth. Besides the tilted head, symptoms of torticollis include trouble breastfeeding from a particular side and difficulty turning toward you on the affected side.

Physical, ultrasound, or heat therapy are often used to help correct abnormal neck positions. A neck collar can also help in correcting a wry neck. But in rare cases, the baby may require surgery to treat torticollis.

3. Craniosynostosis

Craniosynostosis is a birth defect in which the bones in a baby’s skull join together too early. It occurs when one or more sutures close before the brain is fully formed. Sutures are the junctions between the bones that make up the skull. The types of craniosynostosis depend on what sutures join together early.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about one in every 2,500 babies in the US is born with craniosynostosis.

Early suture closure can cause the skull to grow in an unusual shape. It can restrict the growth of the skull and harm brain development. It can also lead to other problems depending on which sutures are closed, whether they closed before or after birth (and at what age), and whether or not the brain has room to grow. 

Signs and Symptoms of Craniosynostosis

Craniosynostosis can be diagnosed as soon as a baby is born (when it occurs before birth) even though some might be diagnosed later. The most apparent symptom of craniosynostosis is an abnormally shaped head. 

When the condition restricts the growth of the skull, it may lead to pressure building inside the baby’s skull. Signs of high pressure may include:

  • Constant headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Lethargy (very sleepy, difficult to wake)
  • Keeping eyes down all of the time 
  • Difficulty moving eyes up
  • Bulging and/or tense soft spot (when the baby is upright and doesn’t have a respiratory infection)

Treatment for craniosynostosis usually involves surgery to unlock the bones and reshape the skull. If left untreated, the baby may experience restricted head growth and increased pressure on the brain. The shape of the head may also worsen.

Learn More About Cranial Deformities in Babies

There are many contributing factors to cranial deformities in babies. Being aware of things that can affect your baby’s normal growth and development is important to parents. Align Clinic provides head and skull assessment using the latest technology and advises on the right treatment.

Have any questions or concerns about cranial deformities in babies? 

Get in touch with a baby cranial specialist today.