According to a 2010 study that was published in Science Daily, babies with flat heads may be at a higher risk for cognitive and motor delays. It makes sense- when an infant is always on his/her back, he/she does not receive the proprioceptive input (feeling of where body is in relation to space) or the neck extension (straightening). The child could potentially be delayed in meeting milestones. After all, it is more difficult to attend to a stimulus while on your back (then on your stomach). Additionally, many babies will take longer to learn how to roll, crawl, sit, and stand, as the core muscles will not be strong enough to move against gravity.
As an occupational therapist, I work with many kids that have positional plagiocephaly. During the session, I teach families how to place their babies during waking hours – as well as how to engage them – to prevent worsening of and correct the flat spot. Although pediatricians recommend back-to-sleep, I encourage families to keep babies OFF of their backs (out of the supine position) as much as possible during waking hours.
What can you do? Here are three “quick” suggestions to PREVENT positional plagiocephaly:
TUMMY TIME! I can’t say it enough. Although a Tummy Time article on parents.com mentioned to place an infant on his/her stomach beginning “around the 3-4 month mark,” I believe it should happen MUCH earlier. You can put your baby on YOUR stomach- after feeding, while he/she is sleeping, and during waking hours during the newborn stage. It is a great way to bond with your baby and can also help with burping! (In all fairness, the article DID mention this- after mentioning the 3-4 month mark for starting Tummy Time.) ***Just be careful until the umbilical cord has fallen off.
Be a switch-hitter! Switch sides in your arms (after every feed) and in the crib (each night)- get your baby comfortable resting his/her head on BOTH sides.
Just because it is made- does not mean it is right for your child. Meaning- just because Bumbo seats, exersaucers, jumpers, walkers, and swings (etc…) are readily available in many, many stores, they are not necessarily appropriate for your child- in his/her current stage of development. Although those items can be great distractions- extended use may NOT be recommended.
It is very scary to be a parent nowadays- I TOTALLY get it. Remember that you are not alone. If your “parent instinct” tells your that your child may have positional plagiocephaly, speak to your pediatrician. I am also available to lend my expert opinion about positioning and engaging “activities” that you can do with your baby.