What is Flat Head Syndrome in babies?

Infant Flat Head Syndrome

Deformational or Positional Plagiocephaly and/or brachycephaly (PPB) is a condition that affects term and pre-term infants. Infants with this disorder have a flattening and/or asymmetry on the back of their head due to unequal force/pressure being applied to the skull, resulting in what appears to be a flat spot on the head. 

What Causes Flat Head Syndrome?

Typically, the concentrated area of pressure comes from the baby sleeping on its back, either in a crib, swing, or car seat. While there can be other causes to PPB, sleep position is thought to be the most common cause and risk factor. (Linz, 2017; Joganic 2009).

While infants should be placed on their back to sleep, too much time with babies on their back is a possible cause for Flat Head Syndrome. Including tummy time and cuddle time as noted by the Safe to Sleep program helps lower this condition but does not eliminate it overall. 

How Serious is Flat Head Syndrome?

Although there is still controversy as to whether this is a correlative or causative relationship (Andrews, 2017), at least one case series has reported findings that the disruption to the skull shape could, in fact, negatively impact brain development (DeGrazia, 2020).

Several studies link PPB, or Flat Head Syndrome, to cognitive and developmental delays.




Linz C, Kunz F, Bohm H, Schweitzer T. Positional skull deformities- etiology, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Dtsch Arztebl Int. 2017; 114: 535-42

Joganic JL, Lynch JM, Littlefield TR, Verrelli BC. Risk factors associated with deformational plagiocephaly. Pediatrics. 2009; 124:e1126-e1133

Andrews BT & Fontana SC. Correlative vs. causative relationship between neonatal cranial head shape anomalies and early developmental delays. Frontiers in neuroscience. 2017; 11: 708.

DeGrazia M, Ahtam B, Rogers-Vizena CR, Proctor M, Porter C, Vyas R, Laurentys CT, Bergling E, McLaughlin K, Grant PE. Brain characteristics noted prior to and following cranial orthotic treatment. Child Neurology Open. 2020; 7:1-11.


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