In the early 1990’s parents were warned that putting their baby to sleep in any position except on their back could cause Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). A national campaign called ‘Back to Sleep’ was launched to teach all new moms that babies were safest on their backs when sleeping. Amazingly, the campaign worked, and experts saw a drastic decline in the number of cases of SIDS across the country. However, there was an unexpected consequence that went along with the campaign’s success.

When babies started spending all of their sleeping hours on their backs, their heads became misshapen. Obviously, a newborn baby has a lot of growing to do outside the womb, and when the head is in one position for too long it starts to grow into that position.

If you notice that your baby’s head is slightly misshapen, you should see a doctor about it immediately. It’s reversible if the baby is less than one year old, so you should take action right away. However, you should first make sure your doctor can rule out a condition called Craniosyntosis, which is more serious. Craniosyntosis happens when a baby’s skull did not fuse properly during fetal development. The asymmetrical shape of the skull could put pressure on the brain, so the problem needs to be fixed with surgery as soon as possible. Luckily, the condition is rare.

More likely, any asymmetry you notice in your baby’s head will be caused by too much time in one position. Once you rule out any more serious problems, start reversing the asymmetry by making sure your baby spends all of his or her waking hours in a different position. Have them sit up or lie on their back when they’re up so that the head has time to grow in the correct way. If it’s more pronounced or later in your baby’s development, he or she might need to wear a shaping helmet for a few months to correct the shape.

If you notice that your beautiful baby’s head isn’t quite as perfect as the rest of him, don’t panic. While it could be a serious condition, chances are it is simply a result of too much time in one position. The problem is reversible, but act quickly. The older your baby gets, the more difficult it will be to reverse the problem and restore the natural and symmetrical head shape.

Source: Lauren C Miller et al: Consequences of the “Back to Sleep” Program in Infancy. Journal of Pediatric Nursing Volume 26 Issue 4 pp. 364-368 August 2011

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