questionMy baby’s head is not round, and the grandparents recommend rubbing down the misshapen areas daily. Is this something that physical therapy can help?

answer

It sounds like your baby has plagiocephaly or a flat shape of the head. This is something a pediatrician needs to diagnose. Here is some information about plagiocephaly and what you can do to help your baby’s head reshape.

Babies’ heads are soft and malleable and even gentle external forces, whether met in the womb or in baby’s daily routine, can cause misshaping. The good news is, babies with plagiocephaly typically respond very well to noninvasive treatments, such as repositioning techniques, which parents can practice at home.

Back-Sleeping

The relationship between back-sleeping and plagiocephaly in infants is well-documented. While the American Academy of Pediatrics still recommends back-sleeping to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, they also recommend frequent rotation of baby’s head when they are on their back, as well as supervised tummy time. The baby will need to have a least 60 minutes total each day of tummy time in order to reshape the head.

Carriers & Convenience Devices

While in car seats, bouncy seats and swings, baby’s soft head is often placed against a rigid, unyielding surface. Though normal use is not a concern, extended use—and allowing an infant to sleep in such devices, in particular—increases the risk of plagiocephaly. This includes the rocking device known as a mamaroo.

How Can I Prevent or Correct Flat Spots?

Simple at-home practices, including supervised tummy time and repositioning techniques, are known to effectively prevent and improve abnormal head shapes. In addition to tummy time, placing the baby on his or her side to play for 15 minute intervals is another way to help. Make sure you switch sides the next time you use this position. When your baby learns to sit and move this will also help reduce pressure on the head where the flat spot might be. Lastly, as mentioned above, do not let your baby sleep in car seats or other carrier/convenience devices. Car seats should only be used for travel and the baby should be removed from the seat when not in the car.

Rubbing the baby’s head may be enjoyable for you, the grandparents and the baby but, unfortunately, it will not help reshape the baby’s head.