Does your baby have a flattened head? Do they always look in one direction?
Your baby could have plagiocephaly and/or torticollis.
What is Torticollis?
Torticollis literally means ‘twisted neck’. It is caused by tightness in a neck muscle called the Sternocleidomastoid muscle. As a result of the tightness in this muscle, your baby’s head will be tilted to one side and they may look in the opposite direction. You may notice that they have difficulty moving their neck when trying to track and follow you or when looking at their environment. You may also notice that they may have a small lump in their neck. This can be described as a tumour but it is non malignant and is a swelling within the muscle. A baby with a torticollis is at risk of developing plagiocephaly (flattedned head) because of the position the head is held in.
What is Plagiocephaly?
Plagiocephaly is the term used to describe a flattening of the head. It is usually caused by repeated pressure on one part of the head. A baby’s skull is made up of several soft plates of bone linked together by fibrous joints called sutures. The sutures allow the bones to grow evenly and change shape as the brain grows and develops. Research suggests that the bones fuse together by 12 months.
- Most cases of torticollis resolve within 6 months with appropriate treatment.
- Mild cases of positional plagiocephaly will correct themselves before the skull fuses.
- Babies with severe cases of positional plagiocephaly may always have some flattening of the head, but this is purely cosmetic and once they grow hair it is much less noticeable. Remember everyone has a different head shape!
- Positional plagiocephaly does not affect brain development!
A few tips:
- Frequently placing your baby on their tummy throughout the day relieves the pressure on the head and allows it to naturally correct. See our Top Tummy Time Tips for further help and advice.
- Frequent changes of position. Try to reduce the amount of time they lie on their back and instead place them on their side, lying on the opposite side to where the flattening is. Your baby may need a rolled up towel behind them to prevent them rolling back.
- Place toys on the opposite side to encourage them to look and turn their head to their weaker side. Think about the location of toys in the cot and pram and when interacting with them on the floor.
- Some people recommend using a gel pillow to reduce pressure on the head. Ensure that it has a safety certificate.
- Get an assessment by a physiotherapist to determine the diagnosis and provide you with safe stretches for the neck and more detailed advice.
Are you concerned that your baby is looking in one direction or has a flattened head? Our specialist paediatric physios are able to see your baby at home and we can usually arrange the first appointment within 24 hours. Contact us today on 0207 884 0374 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.