Frequently Asked Questions About Plagiocephaly

Frequently Asked Questions About Plagiocephaly | District Speech Therapy Services Speech Language Pathologist Therapist Clinic Washington DC

If you’re a new parent, it goes without saying that you want the best for your baby.

You might have sought out all sorts of advice on the best parenting tips, what to do, and what not to do.

You’ve likely weighed many different opinions on how to best raise your child.

But even if you’re doing everything “right”, you could still end up with issues.

For instance, for a long time now, health care providers have said the best sleeping position for a baby is on their back.

This is because it decreases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS.

However, sleeping in a supine (on their back) position over a prone (on the stomach) position can also increase the risk of a baby developing plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome.

Although this may seem worrying, the risks of developing plagiocephaly are far less dangerous than the risk of SIDS.

If you do notice your baby developing signs of flat head syndrome, you should know in most cases it’s an easily treatable condition.

At District Speech And Language Therapy and we want to help you understand what exactly is happening when your baby has this condition.

Beyond offering speech therapy in DC, we also provide pediatric physical therapy services.

That includes physical therapy treatments for children with flat head syndrome.

Today we’ll review some of the common questions we get about this condition.

What Is Plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly is a common disorder that causes your baby’s head to appear flattened.

It’s a result of repeated pressure on one part of the head.

Pressure on one part of your baby’s head can result in flattening due to your baby’s soft skull, which is also called the fontanelle.

This might be due to something such as always sleeping in the same position.

It’s also more common in premature infants.

Premature babies often benefit from physical therapy for premature babies.

Although it may appear concerning to notice your baby’s head appears flat, plagiocephaly is very treatable.

Read this article if you’re interested in the basics of plagiocephaly, symptoms, causes, and how physical therapy can help.

Do All Babies With Plagiocephaly Also Have Torticollis?

Torticollis means “wry” or “twisted” neck.

It’s a condition in which your baby’s head is tilted to the side.

Babies with plagiocephaly don’t always also have torticollis.

However, plagiocephaly and torticollis tend to occur together.

If your baby has plagiocephaly, it might be a good idea to familiarize yourself with infant torticollis.

Babies with plagiocephaly will often favor one side of their head.

This leads to having a limited range of motion, causing the head to tilt and resulting in torticollis.

Other causes of torticollis include a limited amount of space in the uterus, which might happen if your child was part of a multiple birth.

It can also occur from being in an unusual position in the uterus, which can lead to a breach birth.

For babies with torticollis, physical therapy can be a helpful treatment.

Is Plagiocephaly Painful For My Baby?

No, plagiocephaly is not a condition which will cause your baby pain.

Having a flattened head is not painful for your baby.

When you seek early intervention, it’s very unlikely they will have any memories of having it.

If anything, this experience can be more painful, emotionally, for the parents going through it.

How Common Is Plagiocephaly?

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, positional plagiocephaly is very common.

In fact, it affects as many as fifty percent of babies.

It has become more common as a result of the American Academy of Pediatrics advising parents to have infants sleep in a supine position.

Supine sleeping position is a preventative measure against sudden infant death syndrome.

SIDS is associated with stomach sleeping which can lead to low oxygen levels.

How Can I Prevent Plagiocephaly?

There are some approaches which can be used to help try to prevent plagiocephaly from developing.

It’s important to keep in mind these methods aren’t effective with all babies.

These methods also may not reverse flattening that has already occurred.

One method is to use with your infant is called “tummy time”.

“Tummy time” is a short, supervised session where your baby lies on their stomach while awake.

Not only can this help with plagiocephaly, but it also helps your infant develop the strength and gross motor skills in their neck and shoulders to eventually begin crawling.

Another method to avoid plagiocephaly is to hold your baby wherever possible.

You can do this in your arms or in a carrier that sits on your upper body.

You can also switch up the position you use to hold your baby.

The point is to avoid having your infant in their car seat, crib, or baby seat, which will put pressure on the back of their heads.

You can also try modifying your baby’s sleeping position.

You can do this while ensuring your baby continues to sleep on their back.

To do this, alternate turning their head to the left and right each time they sleep.

This way, they won’t constantly sleep on the same side of their head.

Finally, you can try to change the position that you feed your infant in.

This is especially true if they bottle feed.

Changing the position you feed them in will also keep them from resting on the same side of their head every time they’re fed.

What Is Plagiocephaly? | District Speech Therapy Services Speech Language Pathologist Therapist Clinic Washington DC

Does My Child Need Surgery For Plagiocephaly?

The treatment for plagiocephaly doesn’t typically involve surgery.

Instead, it uses methods such as exercises, changing your baby’s sleeping position, and corrective devices such as special helmets.

Does Plagiocephaly Resolve On Its Own?

In some very mild cases of plagiocephaly, it may resolve without treatment.

For moderate and extreme cases, however, it’s highly recommended to seek out treatment.

Treatment can involve physical therapy exercises, repositioning, and helmet therapy.

Will Plagiocephaly Affect My Baby’s Development?

Having a flattened head is not known to interfere with your baby’s brain development.

If it’s accompanied by torticollis, however, it may affect how your child moves.

However, these issues tend to be easily treatable.

What Happens If Plagiocephaly Is Not Treated?

If not treated early, plagiocephaly can worsen.

The skull may remain flat as the soft part of your baby’s head forms fully.

The worst case scenario if this happens is that issues with jaw alignment and vision can result from a misshapen head.

However, even if these things do not occur, having a flattened head can result in self esteem issues as your child grows older.

When Should I Bring My Baby In For Treatment?

If you notice your baby’s head has an unusual shape, it’s a good idea to see a physical therapist as soon as possible.

Early intervention has been shown to be more effective with most issues related to pediatric physical therapy.

It’s particularly important with plagiocephaly, however.

As your baby grows, their skull will harden and solidify.

This means that the longer you wait the more difficult and less successful treatment tends to become.

Could My Baby’s Plagiocephaly Come Back After Treatment?

Once your child has undergone treatment such as helmet therapy for plagiocephaly, the chances of it returning are under one percent.

After treatment is completed, your baby’s skull will generally be more fully formed, the soft spots having hardened and fused together.

This in itself will greatly reduce the odds of the plagiocephaly returning.

Will My Baby Be Okay?

The short answer is yes, almost certainly.

Plagiocephaly responds very well to non invasive treatment, especially if caught early.

Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today

Have you noticed signs your baby may have plagiocephaly?

Does the back of their head appear flat on one side, is their hair growth uneven, or is their face asymmetrical?

There’s no need to panic, because now that you’ve caught it, you can seek treatment for this condition, which is highly effective when started early.

Book your appointment with District Speech today.

District Speech and Language Therapy
1300 I St NW, Suite 400 E,
Washington, DC 20005


District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.