Plagiocephaly: Can Anything Really Be Done?

April 19, 2024

Does your baby have plagiocephaly and want to understand what to do?

In this article, we discuss what plagiocephaly means, how to resolve it, what problems it brings, when the risk ends, and how to round the infant’s head.

What is plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly is a medical term that describes a cranial deformity in infants, characterized by a flattened side of the head.

This condition can be caused by the infant’s position during sleep, when his or her head remains in a fixed position for long periods.

One of the causes is precisely the flexibility of the infant’s skull, which is still elastic to facilitate the growth of the brain before the closure of the fontanelles.

In many cases, plagiocephaly resolves spontaneously as the baby grows and begins to move the head on its own.

However, in some cases, specialized treatment may be needed.

Plagiocephaly is not just a cosmetic issue.

It can lead to serious complications, such as asymmetrical facial development and sleep disturbances.

Sometimes, it can be associated with delays in motor development.

That is why it is crucial to recognize the signs and intervene early.

How is it resolved?

This condition can be corrected with a variety of treatments, depending on the severity.

One of the most common treatments is positional therapy, which involves changing the child’s position during sleep and play, encouraging him to turn his head on both sides.

Good use of tummy time can also help, relieving pressure on the softer parts of the skull.

In more severe cases, it may be necessary to use an orthopedic helmet.

This device, customized for each child, exerts gentle pressure on the skull, helping to reshape the shape of the head.

Importantly, such treatments must be prescribed and monitored by a medical specialist.

No, there are no pillows specifically for plagiocephaly, in part because children at this age are prone to SIDS, and pillows go against the guidelines for the prevention of crib death.

What problems does it cause?

Plagiocephaly can cause various long-term problems if left untreated.

Here is a table listing some of the problems that can be caused by plagiocephaly:

ProblemDescription
Facial asymmetryFlat head can lead to facial asymmetry, with one side of the face more prominent than the other.
Postural problemsPlagiocephaly can affect the child’s posture, causing problems such as cervical lordosis.
Delayed motor developmentSome studies suggest that plagiocephaly may affect the child’s motor development.
Visual disturbancesThe shape of the head may affect the position of the eyes, possibly causing visual problems.
Ear dysfunctionEar position can be affected by plagiocephaly, leading to hearing problems.

It is important to note that these problems may vary from case to case and may be influenced by other factors besides plagiocephaly itself.

When does the risk of plagiocephaly end?

The risk of plagiocephaly decreases as the child grows and begins to move more.

Usually, the risk is significantly reduced after 6 months, when babies are able to roll over and can change positions independently.

However, it is important to continue to monitor the shape of the child’s head during the first few years of life.

Parents should consult a doctor or occupational therapist if they notice that their child’s head is flattened or if he or she does not rotate his or her head on either side.

How to round the infant’s head?

To prevent and correct it, it is important to encourage your baby to turn his or her head on both sides.

Colorful toys and interesting sounds can be used to stimulate the baby’s interest and encourage him to turn his head.

In addition, it is advisable to alternate the baby’s position during breastfeeding and sleeping.

During waking time, encourage your baby to spend time on his or her stomach, as we mentioned earlier.

Not only does this help prevent it, but it can also promote the baby’s motor development and strengthening of his muscles.

How to get your newborn to turn his head?

There are several ways to encourage your infant to turn his or her head.

You can place toys so that your baby has to turn his head to see them.

While breastfeeding, you can alternate sides to encourage your baby to turn his head on both sides.

Remember, however, that it is important never to force your baby to turn his or her head.

If you encounter resistance or notice that your baby seems uncomfortable and cannot make progress, consult your pediatrician or an occupational therapist to find the best solution while there is still time.

We are with you.

At Parentalife, we are by your side throughout the parenting journey, from the childbearing period, to childbirth, to life with children. We support you with personalized guides, classes and counseling. Remember, you will never be alone, we are with you.

FAQ

  1. What is plagiocephaly?

    Plagiocephaly is a cranial deformity in infants characterized by a flattened side of the head.

  2. How is it resolved?

    Positional therapy is a common treatment, encouraging the child to turn the head on both sides. In severe cases, the use of an orthopedic helmet may be necessary, but only by prescription.

  3. What problems does it cause?

    Plagiocephaly can cause facial asymmetry, postural problems, delayed motor development, visual disturbances, and ear dysfunction.

  4. When does the risk of plagiocephaly end?

    The risk decreases after 6 months, when babies can move independently.

SOURCES

Unnithan AKA, De Jesus O. Plagiocephaly. [Updated 2023 Aug 23]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Availble here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK564334/

About the Author

Severino Cirillo

Health, Wellness and Education Expert. With a degree in Community Health, he is the CEO of Informed Parent and is responsible for validating the blog's scientific information and coordinating the editorial team of experts, consisting of gynecologists, midwives, psychotherapists, and others in pregnancy, perinatal, and parenting wellness and health.