What is Baby Flat Head Syndrome?
Baby flat head syndrome has become the most common, lay man’s term describing the condition known as Positional Plagiocephaly. From a parent’s perspective it has become accepted as the catch all phrase to define a baby’s head that is not symmetrical, it may be flat or it might be misshaped. In a sense it is misleading because not all the head shapes associated with the condition feature flat heads.
What is Flat Head Syndrome? | Explainer Video
Baby Head Shapes
There are three main types of head shape that are associated with Baby Flat Head Syndrome.
If you think your baby does have some sort of flat or misshaped head and you are concerned you can quickly and easily get our clinical opinion for free with our Baby Flat Head Syndrome diagnosis form.
Plagiocephaly is the word used to describe a diagonal asymmetry across the head shape.
- Posterior flattening on one side
- Anterior forehead flattening on the opposite side to posterior flattening
- Anterior ear, forehead and eye orbit shift on same side of posterior flattening
- Posterior bulge
- Often associated with facial asymmetry
Brachycephaly, derived from the Greek, means short head, the shape of the skull is shorter than average. A brachycephalic skull is flat in the rear. The crown of the head towards the back is often high, the baby’s face may be wide and the ears can also protrude...
Sometimes brachycephaly is a congenital condition, which means it exists at or before birth. According to the National Institute of Health (part of the USA’s Department of Health), brachycephaly occurs when the front bone and side bones join together before the skull is fully developed.
Brachycephaly that is not the result of a congenital condition is frequently position-related. This is by far the most common type of brachycephaly. Often acquired brachycephaly can be seen in children who have also been diagnosed with plagiocephaly. The risks for developing the acquired form of brachycephaly include all of the observed risk factors for plagiocephaly, as well as carrying low in the pelvis during pregnancy, very large birth size and breech birth.
There are two types of brachycephaly:
• Asymmetrical deformational bracyhcephaly (ADB)* and
• Symmetrical deformational brachycephaly (SDB)
*ADB is also referred to as plagiocephaly with brachycephaly, or brachycephaly with plagiocephaly.
- Bilateral occipital flattening
- Increased width to length ration
- Increased posterior head height
- Bilateral frontal bulging
May also see:-
- Bilateral bulging over the ears
- Cupping of ears
- Some degree of asymmetry (Plagiocephalic features)
Scaphocephaly, also from the Greek, meaning ‘light boat’ head, to describe a head that is long and narrow resembling an inverted boat. This head shape is also referred to as Dolichocephaly. The head appears long and the forehead can protrude and become square shaped. It is more prevalent in babies that have spent time in neo-natal care.
- Decreased width to length ratio
- Elongated, narrow head shape
- Overall increase in head height
- Bilateral frontal bossing
May also see:-
- Some degree of asymmetry(Plagiocephalic features)
For information on the condition known as craniosynostosis, where the skull prematurely fuses resulting in abnormal head shape, see our page on craniosynostosis.
If your baby has mild plagiocephaly, repositioning should be sufficient to help naturally resolve the issue. If your baby has moderate or severe plagiocephaly helmet therapy with the LOCband is proven to be very effective at normalising head shape.
We have successfully treated babies up to the age of 16 months for positional plagiocephaly. There have been exceptional cases where a baby’s fontanelles have not fused yet by the age of 18 months, who have achieved successful, but less-marked, results with cranial remoulding therapy.
Back to Sleep
Although the 'Back to Sleep' campaign has been linked to the increased incidence of positional plagiocephaly, (for more information, see the Diagnosis and Management of Positional Head Deformity) it has saved lives by reducing the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), (more information can be found on The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths). Therefore, babies should always be placed on their backs to sleep.