Babies are often born with a misshaped head from being in your womb (uterus) or from moving through the birth canal during delivery. This normally corrects within the first six weeks after birth. Sometimes babies go on to develop ‘flat spots’ which if not identified and managed early can be difficult to correct.
What does it look like?
There are three main types:
- Plagiocephaly is the flattening of one side of the baby’s head. You may notice that one side of your baby’s face is slightly more forward than the other e.g. forehead and ear is pushed forward compared to the other side. This is the most common type and is often associated with your baby having a torticollis.
- Brachiocephaly is the flattening across the back of the baby’s head and this often causes the head to look wider.
- Scaphocephaly is the flattening of both sides of the baby’s head making it look long and narrow.
Very occasionally a baby’s head shape does not fit into one of these three categories. This is the result of early joining (fusing) of two of the skull plates. This is called Craniosynostosis which is estimated to occur in 1 in 2000 births and will require medical intervention.
What are the effects of a baby having a misshapen head?
If it is severe it can cause issues with fitting reading glasses or sunglasses, bike helmets, and hats. In severe cases of plagiocephaly, it may affect the child’s ability to perceive depth correctly, due to one eye being positioned more forward than the other. Developmentally, we find they develop a hand preference, prefer to roll over one side and find pushing up into crawling on both arms more challenging.
How can physiotherapy help?
I will show and guide you with specific positioning exercises and if there is tightness in your baby’s neck, I will teach you neck stretches. This treatment will help remold your baby’s head shape and is most effective if done when the baby is still very young, as the plates in the skull start to fuse from around 9 months of age.
We will also aim to;
- Improve your child’s ability to turn their head side to side
- Improve your child’s ability to lift their head up when on their tummy
- Teach them to use both hands equally and take weight through their arms when on their tummy
- Teach them to correct their head or orient to midline against gravity