Plagiocephaly - how do I even say that?

January 17, 2015

Wow, what a mouthful!


Simply, stated plagiocephaly is an asymmetrical head shape.


It is quite common for babies to have mis-shapen heads because they have soft pliable skull bones. This feature is useful for the birthing process.

Babies head shapes can be influenced by their position in the womb or from the birth process (or any instruments that may have been used during delivery i.e. vacuum). In addition, babies head shapes after they are born are also influenced by the positions they are placed in, especially in the newborn phase where they have limited ability to control their head position. For example, a baby who spends most of their time on their back may have a flattened head shape at the back.


Should I worry?

Normally things start to even up after about 6-8 weeks, but you can help this process by:

  1. Lying the baby on their back to sleep but altering the position you place their head at each sleep

  2. Changing the cot position or your babies position in the cot so that it encourages them to look different directions for where the stimulation/interesting things come from i.e. you!

  3. Change the position of toys or other visually stimulating things so that it encourages your baby to look in different directions/place their head in different positions

  4. Encourage tummy time and alternate positions such as side lying for play

  5. Changing the way that you hold and carry your baby and the side you carry them on.


As babies spend less time on their backs and more time upright, their head shape can even out further.


What if it isn't changing?

Sometimes a mis-shapen head can be quite significant.  So if you are concerned that your babies head shape has not changed much around 8 weeks of age, it is worthwhile talking to your maternal and child health nurse or having a physiotherapy assessment.


What will they do?

Sometimes babies can have some tightness in their neck muscles that can make it difficult for them to change their head position, and they may need some extra stretches, advice and positioning therapy to assist their head shape. In some babies they may also need to undergo corrective helmet therapy to optimise their head shape.


Why is head shape important?
Head shape can influence the symmetry of the face and ears, so it can affect someone's cosmetic appearance, but could also influence things such as the symmetrical function of the jaw and the fit of things such as sunglasses/glasses and hats.


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