You need to see a pediatric physical therapist for flat head syndrome as soon as possible!
Babies with flat spots on their heads is so common these days that a lot of parents don’t think it’s a problem. It may just seem like a small cosmetic glitch that will change with growth, and you have probably been told “your baby will grow out of it,” or “you’ll never notice it once she has a full head of hair.”
It’s not true! There are significant more cases of flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly) now that ever before. A recent study showed up to 50% of 4-month-old babies have flat spots on their heads! This significant increase can be attributed to the back-to-sleep campaign, the lack of tummy time, and the invention of detachable car seats, multi-directional vibrating swings, and play mats with toys that dangle over baby’s head.
And this is why babies don’t grow out of it anymore! If a baby spends all day and night laying on the flat spot for the first 6 months of life, how on earth is the head supposed to “correct itself?”
It won’t correct itself!
The longer a baby lays on a flat spot, the more likely he will be to prefer laying on that flat spot every time he’s on his back. Instead of growing out of it, flat head syndrome can often lead to more serious problems like:
- Torticollis: a crooked neck from tight muscles on one side
- Abnormal shaping of the ear, face, and jaw
- Delays in motor milestones: especially rolling and tummy time skills
- Asymmetries in motor development: like using only the left side of the body
- Visual and vestibular (balance/ inner ear) issues
- And possible delays or deficits in speech and language skills
Yes! A seemingly harmless flat spot on your baby's head is a big deal! Get evaluated by a pediatric physical therapist ASAP!Click To Tweet
If you aren’t familiar with flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly), you should read this post first:
And while you’re at it…read this post, too, so I don’t have to get on my Tummy Time soap box again!
A pediatric physical therapist is the best person to treat torticollis and flat head syndrome. Click To Tweet
A pediatric PT or OT that has taken advanced courses in torticollis and plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome) is even better. It’s worth calling around to ask for a specialist!
Why do I need to go to a physical therapist? You ask…
The Top 5 Reasons To See A Pediatric Physical Therapist For Flat Head Syndrome:
The neck stretches are not effective if they are not done properly. And if you are pushing/pulling too hard, your baby will likely be mad at you and cry even more. (More crying = less sleeping. Lose-lose.)
Suggestions of changing positions in the crib, in the high chair, while feeding, etc are good, but the type of plagiocephaly and torticollis needs to be assessed before recommendations are made. Only physical therapists that specialize in infants and torticollis are able to make these detailed assessments.
Sometimes babies can be tight on the right, causing their heads to tilt and rotate to the right, and other times a baby can be tight on the right causing her head to tilt to the right but rotate to the left.
Most pediatricians were trained with the assumption (or still believe) that flat head syndrome is a result of congenital torticollis. But back-to-sleep and baby containers and positional plagiocephaly have changed the whole game.
Different causes and symptoms of flat spots and tight muscles require very different interventions. Click To Tweet
A full developmental evaluation needs to be done. There are lots of other conditions that are associated with torticollis and plagiocephaly, even though the majority of flat-headed babies are otherwise healthy. But as many, many parents know, if there’s one thing, there’s usually something else going on, too.
Pediatricians do a basic scan to look at muscle tone, reflexes, and neurological function, but those scans don’t pick up the subtle details of your baby’s individual development and movement patterns. Physical therapists will evaluate your baby’s milestones, movement patterns, muscle tone, oral motor function (aka feeding and nursing skills) and various family factors like multiple siblings, or being a twin, or lots of time at daycare.
Pediatric therapists are more likely to detect the possibility of reflux because of the physical signs and symptoms associated with both reflux and flat head syndrome. Some PTs and OTs are also specialized in infant feeding disorders, aka “painful nursing syndrome.” (I just made up that diagnosis, but I know you ladies are feeling my vibe, am I right?) 😉
Pediatric therapists get to spend way more time with you and baby because we’re paid by the hour, not by the numbers! And in my area, we have a serious shortage of pediatricians. Many of moms I work with complain that the doctor doesn’t even have time for them to ask any questions!
And some parents assume that if the doctor doesn’t bring it up or notice it, then there’s nothing wrong. Yikes! No!
Come see us! We have all the time in the world for you! Another reason I absolutely love my job!
What’s the worst thing that can happen? Someone actually listens to your concerns and answers your questions and thoroughly evaluates your baby? And the best things that can happen are you learn lots of awesome stuff about your baby and her flat spot goes away! Win-win-win for everyone!
6. (Bonus Reason)
Because we want to snuggle and love on your baby! Bring them to us now…. PLEASE!….before someone gets an awkward stranger hug at the grocery store. ♥
Are you convinced? You’ve got nothing to lose, and so much information to gain!
I hope you found this post helpful, lovely mommas and papas! Do you have questions or concerns?
Have you had good experiences with going to a pediatric physical therapist for flat head syndrome?
Tell us about it in the comments below!