How Treatment Can Help Your Child


Plagiocephaly (or Flat Head) is a very common condition occurring in 1 out of every 2 infants.The term is generally used to describe a type of infant head shape asymmetry that persists past 6 weeks of age. It is characterized by a flat spot on the back (brachycephaly) or side of the head (plagiocephaly) and if left untreated, infants may develop asymmetries of the head and face. Infants who have a flat spot do not usually present with developmental delays or other medical concerns, but the effect it has on cosmetic appearance can cause parental concern. Fortunately, with early intervention, plagiocephaly is treatable!

How does it happen?

An infant can have a flat head that is present since birth or it can develop during infancy. Due to the bones of a newborn baby’s head being very thin and flexible, the shape may change easily if your baby spends long periods of time lying in the same position, especially on their back.

Some infants may be more likely to develop a flat head due to the following factors:

  • First born child
  • Assisted delivery
  • Male
  • Increased exposure on their back
  • Spending too much time in infant equipment such as swings and car seats

How to Prevent Flat Head:

  • Increasing tummy time tolerance
  • Limiting the amount of time your baby sleeps in car seats, swings, bouncy chairs and other infant seats
  • Changing their head position while sleeping

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

  • Stretching techniques to help maintain full neck movement
  • Education on positional techniques that will alternate the position of your baby’s head to reduce the amount of time spent on the flattened side
  • Prescription of activities to help reduce the amount of time that your baby spends on their back and increase tummy time

It Is Important To Differentiate Between Plagiocephaly and Scaphocephaly

Scaphocephaly is a birth condition where the sagittal suture, which runs from the baby’s soft spot at the front of their head to the back of their head, closes too early and the head grows long and narrow. It does not resolve on its own and the primary intervention is surgery, so it is important to seek advice and education early!

If you are worried about your baby’s head shape or would like some tips and tricks, don’t be afraid to call Miller Health at 705-327-5400 for a free phone consultation!

lauren longeri physiotherapist resident miller health orillia
Written By: Lauren Longeri, PT Resident

Related Articles:

Mawji A, Vollman AR, Hatfield J, McNeil DA, Sauvé R. The incidence of positional plagiocephaly: a cohort study. Pediatrics. 2013 Aug;132(2):298-304. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-3438. Epub 2013 Jul 8. PMID: 23837184.

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