Saturday, May 12, 2007

Flat head syndrome

Valerie at Bound by Grace discusses flattening of babies' heads and how parents can adjust. My Andrew had plagiocephaly, too. We were sent to the specialist and the orthotist and eventually decided (after several second opinions) not to undergo helmet therapy. We met a child in the orthotist's office whose scalp was covered with open sores. I couldn't stand the thought of my 10 month old being trapped in a hot helmet for six months--on top of the chronic ear infections he also suffered.

At five, the back of his head is still not evenly rounded. His hair hides the flat spot, but I worry about teasing should he ever become an USMA cadet. If I were doing it again, I would do the helmet therapy. I understand now that parents have to push through the uncomfortable feelings to do what is ultimately best for the child. As a new parent, I could not look past the emotion.

Neither would this rigid new parent detour from the official pediatric guidelines. Andrew slept on his back and was regularly turned. I attribute his flat spot to MY naive overuse of the carrier-style carseat and baby swing. I eliminated both with my second child so I wouldn't be tempted to leave her in one position too long. I use a plush Britax convertible seat and a Maya Wrap or Baby Bjorn when we leave the car. We're both happier, and her head looks perfect.

My friend Ann has written about her son's plagiocephaly and her family's creative way of financing the helmet therapy.

10 comments:

2boysmama said...

dont blame yourself for the use of the infant carrier. I used it with both of my kids and they didn't suffer from plagiocephaly. My 2nd one took LOTs of naps on the swing too. I think it is just the "luck of the draw" in the genes.

Indie said...

While you shouldn't blame yourself for something that you didn't know, I'm glad that you mentioned the car seat/swing issue because overuse really is what usually causes the problem. Babies are usually happier in a sling or similar anyway (I swear by my mai tai) and its not difficult if you get one that's comfortable.

Alison said...

Thanks for sharing this story Meredith. Our son also had (has) plagiocephaly and we did attempt the helmet treatment, but by the time the insurance approved it, and the bugs were worked out of the design (all helmet designs are not created equally, apparently), it didn't have much effect and his head is definitely not perfectly symmetrical though at three he looks good with a nice haircut. In hindsight, we did rely too much on the carseat and baby swing since we weren't even introduced to slings until he was 4 months old. Our second baby is due in July and we will be doing things differently for sure. However, I'm pretty sure that the initial misshaping was caused more by our 40 hour labor and only reinforced by the positional aspect.

Anonymous said...

I've admired you handsome son's photos on your blog. Never noticed a thing. Mothers are exceptionally aware of every atypical aspect of their children. My 18 year old son had an indented sternum. Recent surgery corrected it. I am beginning to see how the imperfection, the embarrassment, the treatment were all used by God to shape his character more like His. I blamed myself for not having noticed, not taking action earlier. Could have prevented so much pain. But God uses my mistakes when I surrender them to Him.

Maybe accepting God's grace and forgiving ourselves is the best present we might receive this Mother's Day. Martha

Alison said...

All those words above and I failed to mention that the reason Sean's plagiocephaly did not respond well to treatment was undiagnosed torticollis. We knew to ask about the plagio but not the torticollis and somehow the doctor failed to notice his persistent head turn. He would probably still have torticollis if not for the wonderful people at Shriner's Hospital. We found our way there around 18 m.o. and they very quickly recognized both the plagio and torticollis. It was too late for the plagio but the exercises they taught for the torticollis worked wonders. If anyone else is going through this with their child I highly recommend getting a referral or making a self-referral to Shriner's. The care is EXCELLENT and you never pay out-of-pocket. Those men in fezzes have a special place in my heart now. Here is their general website if you need info. http://www.shriners.com/

Honey said...

My son had placement plagiocephaly from preferring to sleep with his head in one direction. His ped. assured us he didn't have torticollis, and had us get him to sleep on the other side by turning him the other way in his crib and constantly keeping him on that side. (A good preventative measure is rotating the direction baby sleeps in the crib). He still has a flat side, but it isn't as bad. His ped. never recommended the helmet but mentioned it in case we wanted to do it. I don't wish we had done the helmet, but I might someday when he is older and I don't remember so clearly what a sensitive one he was. :)

Tammy L said...

Wow! I guess I was blissfully unaware that by spending most of the night on their sides beside me, my babies were avoiding flat heads! Both of my babies have NEVER slept well on their backs. So it was the sling/mei tai, nursing (lying on their sides) or tummy for them...

Revka said...

I had no idea this was such a problem. None of my girls would sleep lying on their backs so I ignored modern medical wisdom, and they all slept on their tummies.

My sister had a girl this past November, and she is now wearing a helmet for her plagio. The doctors say hers is caused by the stiff neck muscles and hope to have everything corrected in a (relatively) short period of time. Thanks for the information.

Valerie said...

Meredith,

As I mention in my reply to your comment on my site, I can appreciate the difficulty of making the decision on helmet or no helmet. You weigh the risks and do what seems best at that time.

This is alot of "if's," but IF I were a first-time mom, and IF I were "only" dealing with plagio (vs the more unusual reason our baby was actually prescribed helmet therapy) I also would not have likely been favorable toward doing helmet therapy. And IF, in my quest to get more information on it, I happened across a baby with several open sores on his head (I think it would have only taken seeing one) I would have been completely turned off to the idea!

Vicky said...

A friend who had a baby a few months before I did went through this with her son. Fortunately, he did not have to undergo helmet treatment, but he had to rest in the sleep positioner for quite a while. Needless to say he is a little slow at rolling over, crawling, etc. just because of NOT being able to move as freely.

I guess we got lucky with our first - I knew it could happen but just thought it was from lack of positioning. However, when they start to turn their heads a lot in their sleep, what's a mom to do? Ironically, we had a High Needs baby - needs to be held a lot, etc. - so, probably due to that, she does not have a flat head. We could seldom put her down or the screaming would start. Hold her and she was fine - thankfully she's outgrowing that! :) Funny, too - because we had so many people ask me if I had a C-section because she has such a nice round head. HA! That one makes me laugh.