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Plagiocephaly - flat head syndrome

(18 Posts)
TerriBull Fri 06-Feb-15 18:27:42

My 9 month grandson has been diagnosed with this condition apparently an increasingly common phenomenon since 1990 when mothers were advised to place babies to sleep on their backs rather than on their fronts which was the advice given when my children were babies. Placing babies on their backs has significantly reduced the incidence of cot death, but doctors are now seeing increasing numbers of babies with Plagiocephaly. My son and his girlfriend have bought a special mattress which is recommended as an aid to rectify this condition and they have also been advised to place the baby on his front during the day when he is awake. I personally don't think it's that noticeable or pronounced unless attention is drawn to it and then I have to admit that his head is not completely asymmetrical. The other day he had an appointment at Great Ormond Street and the conclusion was that there wasn't really any course of action that could be considered other than the option of purchasing a helmet which some babies wear for about six months or so.

As opinion is divided as to the benefits of these helmets the NHS does not supply them free of charge and they cost close to £2,000. I have been on line to try and find out as much as possible about them, which incidentally have to be worn 23 hours a day. A recent study in Holland of 84 babies where 50% wore the helmet concluded there were no significant benefits to wearing one, 50% of the babies wearing the helmet saw no improvement in the condition and in fact there were side effects the worst being 30% of parents felt that their baby was experiencing some pain as a consequence of having this contraption on their head, which I would hate.

I am wondering if there are any GNs who have come across this condition and if so, what course of action did their family take, I have heard it can rectify itself in time. We have told our son that we would be happy to stump up the money but I am concerned that a) it wouldn't do the job and b) as previously stated it might make have an adverse effect on our grandchild.

Kiora Fri 06-Feb-15 18:39:15

Honestly try not to worry. This almost always rights itself and even if it doesn't once a full head of hair is grown it's hardly noticeable. At 9 months he will be spending less and less time on his back. He's old enough now to move around when asleep and sitting up in the daytime. I see 100 of babies and your right it's very noticeable in lots, but when I meet them again at 2 years old it's undetectable.

annsixty Fri 06-Feb-15 18:40:14

My "step GS" had this and it was,like you have said, put down to the fact that he always slept on his back and was a very placid baby who slept for hours at a time. His GP was an African and said that many babies in his countryhad flat heads. This may or may not be relevant but it relieved his parents worries somewhat.He is now 6 and a half and if you knew, or looked, his head is still flat at the back. He is a delightful and lovely little boy.

janeainsworth Fri 06-Feb-15 18:48:04

terribull I haven't heard of this term, but two things.
I spent 11 years living in Hongkong. Chinese babies are always put to sleep on their backs, and when they are little they have flat heads. They seem to grow up with normal heads.
Bone is a plastic tissue, which means that the shape of it is dependent on the pressure exerted on it. (That's roughly how braces on teeth work).
So when the babies gradually reduce the time they spend asleep on their backs each day, the overall pressure on the backs of their heads reduces and the shape becomes more 'normal'.
That's my understanding, anyway. I certainly wouldn't buy a £2000 helmet.
Hope that helps.

tanith Fri 06-Feb-15 18:54:00

My grandson had this, at about 9mths he is now 2 and has a perfectly normal shaped head... they worried themselves sick about it at the time but as soon as he started sitting more and standing/walking the problem seemed to disappear quite quickly.. I wouldn't pay out that sort of money for something that seems to right itself in most cases..

aggie Fri 06-Feb-15 18:55:38

My DGS1 developed this due to being in his car seat too much , and lying on his back didn't help much , he is in his teens now and has long hair so it isn't as noticeable , his brother has it to a much lesser degree , they don't seem bothered and are bright boys . We did agonise over it and DD couldn't or wouldn't see it , so it did cause a bit of friction when I had him out of the chair and on his tummy when I had him

loopylou Fri 06-Feb-15 18:56:20

I think that if the helmet was considered to be critical to correcting this then wouldn't the NHS be funding them?

TerriBull Fri 06-Feb-15 18:58:26

Thanks Kiora, annsixty and janeainsworth I welcome anyone else's experiences with this. We looked after baby on Monday he is happy, inquisitive and gurgling and now his baby hair is thickening up I think this condition is less noticeable. My son, like many parents doesn't want him to look different from his peer group when he is at school. However, I would hate to spend money on something that might turn out to be of very little use, or worse give him any sort of pain.

annsixty Fri 06-Feb-15 19:00:08

By the time he goes to school I doubt anyone will notice anything. Just enjoy him.

Galen Fri 06-Feb-15 19:07:00


Gagagran Fri 06-Feb-15 19:11:11

My DGD had this condition and hers was a bit lopsided flat if that makes sense. Like others have said it disappeared once she became free standing and could sleep in whatever position she chose. I certainly would not contemplate the helmet route both on terms of the cost but more importantly because it will right itself in time. It can't be particularly comfortable for a baby to wear a helmet for such long periods either.

rosequartz Fri 06-Feb-15 19:32:30

As Aggie posted, car seats have been pinpointed as a possible cause of the flat head syndrome. The car seat is hard and if a baby falls asleep in the car regularly and is brought indoors in the seat and left to sleep for long periods it could be a cause.

It should right itself now he is moving around and can choose how he lies in his cot.

A friend was alerted to another problem with car seats - apparently tiny babies' heads can loll forward and they are in a sort of 'curved' position and can suffocate because their nose or mouth can be blocked and their chest cannot expand.

hildajenniJ Fri 06-Feb-15 19:53:03

My GS has this. His head is perfectly flat at the back. He is 4 now and is a lovely boy. His head looked big for his body when he was smaller, but he is growing into it. He is very bright for his age. I really don't think you have any need to worry. Enjoy him as he is.

whenim64 Fri 06-Feb-15 20:02:05

My eldest grandson had this as a baby. DiL panicked and took him to see a consultant privately - cost a fortune to be told it was increasingly common and she could lay out more money for a special helmet that would help to correct it in the next year or so.....alternatively, they could do nothing and it would correct itself in a year or so! It did. His head is absolutely fine.

janeainsworth Fri 06-Feb-15 20:34:51

Just remembered that DGD2, who is now 4, had a very lopsided head when she was born, as a result of a ventoux delivery and being back to front.

She's bright as a button and you don't notice anything odd about her head, which is why I had forgotten all about it till now smile

Marmight Fri 06-Feb-15 20:36:58

My 4 year old DGS has this too. DD, strangely, wasn't bothered about it. It is still there but he has a great mop of hair and you really wouldn't notice it unless you are looking for it!

Anne58 Fri 06-Feb-15 20:41:55

Mr P has a rather flat head at the back (hope this makes sense?) and other than being completely unable to distinguish the laundry basket from the floor is a fully functioning specialist engineer!

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 06-Feb-15 21:31:21

I think I've got a flat head at the top. I don't think they laid me that way up though.