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Health Team

Treatments exist for infant flat head syndrome

Posted November 29, 2011

The number of cases of sudden infant death syndrome has gone down since 1992 when the American Academy of Pediatricians recommended that infants sleep on their backs to reduce sudden infant death syndrome. But the incidence of flat head syndrome has gone up.

Four-month old Vincent Antenucci has to wear a helmet to try to reshape his flat head.

“I noticed the flattening at the 10-week visit and I was really concerned,” his mother, Jamie Antenucci, said.

The same group has recently released guidelines to help prevent flat head syndrome. They say moving the child into different positions or physical therapy on the neck muscles can correct most cases.

“These deformities do happen. Most of the time they are benign and will go away,” said Dr. Andrew Hertz, medical director of the University Hospitals Rainbow Care Network. The Cleveland-based group provides care to children.

Treatments exist for flat head syndrome Treatments exist for infant flat head syndrome

The guidelines say parents should keep babies off of their backs as much as possible during the day. They should increase tummy time when they play, limit their time in car seats, swings or bouncy seats, and turn the child's head each night from left to right in the crib.

Doctors say if the child’s head shows no improvement in six months, parents should see a specialist. Some experts say in more severe cases, acting sooner is best.

“If we know that this child is going to need the helmet anyway because the asymmetry is so great, I recommend not waiting because the younger the baby is, the softer the bones are and the faster the bones grow,” said Rochelle Silberman, who designs orthopedic appliances for children through her company, Kidi Splints.

The Antenuccis tried everything but decided a helmet was the best option for their baby.

“It wasn’t going to get better on its own,” Jamie Antenucci said.

Vincent will have to wear the helmet for about three months. After a few weeks, his parents said they could already see a difference.

The American Academy of Pediatricians report says the helmets are not dangerous, but researchers say there's no evidence they work any better than changing positions.

10 Comments

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  • wilmelisnc Dec 6, 2011

    Has anyone considered that this can be a serious medical condition that is not cause by back sleeping, laying in a seat, not moving babies head, etc. This can be caused in utero as well as to other underlying condition such a torticollis and craniosynostosis which are serious issues which is no fault of a parent. I cannot stand people who say it is neglect due to a parent when you should think before you speak because there could be much more to the reasoning. My son has a helmet because yes he has flat head which is due to serious underlying medical conditions which if this works will prevent surgeries to correct facial and cranial issues and much more. For those of you who believe this is due to bad parenting maybe you need to do some research.

  • orangemoonlite Dec 5, 2011

    @yesnomaybesok - YOU SAID IT!!! My grandmother has a 6th grade education & she taught her younger siblings, her children & her grandchildren to turn the infant's head while sleeping! Where's the sense in this world - do they not put this in all the books people have to read to become parents these days?

  • confused in johnston Dec 2, 2011

    I'm sorry... has anyone considered that flat head syndrome may not come from babies sleeping on their backs but from leaving them while they are awake in reclined swings, car seats, and bouncy seats for hours on end? As one person commented, babies' heads roll to the side when they are sleeping on their backs. Perhaps it is not sleep time (mine didn't sleep enough to flatten a head anyway - LOL). Perhaps it is plain, old-fashioned neglect? We have so many convenient devices today to hold our children so we don't have to. Have we started to rely on them too much?

  • JAT Dec 2, 2011

    do parents really let their kids sleep THAT much that their heads would turn flat? Pick the kid up and play with it!

  • yy_heart Dec 1, 2011

    prevention also exists - pick your kid up! hold them! don't carry them in a bucket constantly!

    and don't blame back-sleeping on a flat head - their heads turn to the side when they sleep!

  • yesnomaybesok Dec 1, 2011

    i guess these people didn't have a wise old granny telling them "you need to shape that baby's head ....cradle, rub and mold when ur holding them!" soft bones/skull + laying on back = flat head. duh!

  • The Fox Nov 30, 2011

    Like we had any control over how ours slept. They scooted and flopped in every which position. How did mankind ever survive to this point?

  • k2tal38 Nov 30, 2011

    I just let mine sleep on their stomachs...no matter what the doctors said....firm mattress...no items in the crib ...and warm jammies so they didn't need a blanket!!

  • opuntia Nov 30, 2011

    My impression is that a lot of babies spend almost all their time on their backs - in cribs, in bouncy seats, in car seats. Both my kids slept on their backs but took some naps on their tummies while lying on Daddy's or Mommy's chest (whilst we were awake and watching TV or reading, so we could monitor their breathing and know if there was any distress). When they were awake they got tummy time and lots of carrying in a front carrier. Neither child had any flat head issues.

  • scientistjo Nov 29, 2011

    A study will come out in about 10 years saying that the majority of children who slept on their backs have learning disabilities. Forcing babies to sleep on their back is the biggest load of BS I've ever heard. The AAP changed too many variables when it came out with "recommendations". Likely the largest decrease in SIDS is due to removing all items from the crib.