Effective vs. Ineffective Treatment Options for Flat Head Syndrome

Once you know that your child has Flat Head Syndrome or Positional Plagiocephaly, start researching treatment options.
Treatment options consist of behavior modification, physiotherapy exercises, cranial orthotics, and in some cases surgical intervention.
Which of these are the most effective and which are ineffective? Let's review the pros and cons of each.

Parent Education and Behavior Modification

The Safe to Sleep, formally Back to Sleep, is funded by the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to educate parents on how to put your baby safely to sleep. This includes education on placing your baby on his or her back to sleep. 

While this has greatly reduced the instances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, it has also dramatically increased Flat Head Syndrome. Further education now includes tummy time as part of the behavior modification. 

Depending on the severity, these are effective methods of treating Flat Head Syndrome. 

Physiotherapy Exercises

Babies with torticollis usually require physical therapy to strengthen the weak side of their necks. A physical therapist can teach you several exercises and stretches you can do with your baby to help elongate and strengthen the neck.

This can be an effective treatment, but must be done regularly. Do not do this without explicit instruction from a professional.

Helmet Therapy

Helmet therapy is often used to treat Flat Head Syndrome. You can read about Helmet Therapy here. Helmets are a largely effective means of treating Flat Head Syndrome, but is extremely costly. Averaging $2,000 out of pocket costs to parents and not covered by insurance, helmets are only effective for those families that can afford them. Plus, these require weekly appointments for resizing and must be work nearly 24 hours a day. 

However, at least one randomized, controlled trial found that helmet therapy was no more effective than no intervention. (Van Wijk, 2014). 

Head Positioners/Baby Pillows

Baby pillows or head shaping pillows or cushions are sold with the intent to cradle the infants head providing space between the pillow and flat surface, thus removing the pressure. However, these can be very dangerous as the soft material does not allow a baby to breathe if they roll sideways. Plus, the design may cause the baby's head to raise too high and cause additional neck injuries. THESE ARE ADVISED AGAINST BY MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS.

The Crescent Womb is a natural safe sleep alternative.

Crescent eases the transition from #WombtoWorld by safely mimicking the ergonomics of being held. Our patented technology cradles infants the way nature intended, providing healthy weight distribution for their tiny body. Crescent Womb’s unique design relieves pressure from the back of the head, limiting known environmental risks of Flat Head Syndrome.

 

Van Wijk RM, van Vlimmeren La, Groothuis-Oudshoorn CGM, Van der Ploeg CPB, IJzerman MJ, Boere-Boonekamp MM. Helmet therapy in infants with positional skull deformation: randomized controlled trial. BMJ. 2014; 348: g2741.