What causes flat head syndrome

Find out more information about the causes of flat head syndrome with Orthotics UK.

A baby’s skull is formed of five bony plates. These bony plates offer protection to the brain whilst allowing the skull to be more flexible. This flexibility is advantageous in allowing easier passage down the birth canal and so the brain can grow rapidly. After 18 months- 24 months the skull is normally fully fused.

The flexible nature of the skull unfortunately can result in flat head syndrome for the following reasons:

Positional flat head

In the 90s new guidelines were set out to encourage parents to sleep their babies on their backs. This has proven very successful in reducing the numbers of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Unfortunately as a consequence more and more babies are presenting with positional flat head syndrome. Due to the flexible nature of a babies skull and the babies inability to change their own head position, lying the baby with pressure consistently on the same spot from a mattress, buggy and car seat can lead to a irregular shaped head.

It is important to mention that doctors continue to recommend that babies sleep on their backs this is due to the greater benefit of reducing SIDS outweighing any positional plagiocephaly dangers. We always recommend that parents continue to place their babies on the back to sleep and to reposition the head so that it does not continue to rest on the flat section continually. (click here to find out more information about positioning techniques).

Prenatal flat head

Flat head syndrome can also occur while the baby is still developing in the womb. If there is a lack of amniotic fluid during pregnancy this can mean less protection around the babies skull and potentially increasing pressure on one area of the skull. Also if the unborn baby is in an unusual position or more commonly with twins and triplets as there is less room in the womb. Sometimes if the mother’s womb is an unusual shape or she has uterine fibroids (non cancerous fibrous tissue tumors) flat head syndrome can occur.

Premature babies

The skull of premature baby is softer than the skull of a baby born at full term. They also tend to move their heads less often and can have other health issues of higher priority.

Secondary flat head

Occasionally the preference for lying on one side is caused by torticollis which is an abnormal tightness of the neck muscles on one side This can restrict the ability to turn the babies head to one side. The subsequent increase of pressure on a portion of the skull can easily influence a flat spot.

Other health issues such as cerebral palsy, hypotonia or hypertonia can make positioning a babies head a challenge and flat head syndrome can develop as a unexpected or unavoidable consequence.

If you feel your child may have a from of flat head syndrome or you simply are not sure please do not hesitate to get in touch. Orthotics UK provide a free assessment where we will discuss treatment options, take scans, measurements and offer free advice.

To get in touch or arrange an appointment, you can call us at 0330 088 3949 or email office@orthotics.co.uk.

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