17 Sep What Can I Do To Keep My Baby’s Head From Becoming Too Flat?
By: Ruben J. Rucoba, MD
Putting babies on their backs to sleep became the mantra over 20 years ago. With that simple maneuver, the rate of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) dramatically decreased. But we saw a rise in plagiocephaly or flat head. This can be more than just cosmetic: the heads can be so misshapen that the face, eyes, and ears can become asymmetrical. Here are a few tips to try to keep your baby’s head as round as possible.
● LOTS OF TUMMY TIME! In the first few weeks, your baby will probably sleep a lot, and we want her on her back for sleeping. But as she wakes up more, make time to put her on her tummy while awake. She may not last long, so do it until she cries, then pick her up, but do it frequently, at least 6-8 times a day. She may last longer if she has a face to look at, so get on the floor with her (or have an older sibling do that). Or put her near a mirror, so she can look at her own face.
● Alternate her position in the bassinet every night. That is, if the bassinet is positioned next to the bed, put the baby’s head at the head of the bed one night, and at the foot of the bed the next. Babies generally like to look one way at night (usually towards mom), and if they are positioned in the same way every night for months, they will turn only one way, and get flat on that side. So be sure to alternate positions. If you have trouble remembering where the head was last night, make it simple: even nights put the baby’s head at the head of the bed, odd nights put the baby’s head at the foot of the bed. Don’t use a head positioner to accomplish this: nothing should be in the bassinet with the baby.
● If you are lying on the couch, bed, or recliner, put the baby on your chest and talk to her or sing to her. That counts as tummy time as well.
● If you are awake, it’s ok to have the baby sleep on top of you (in your lap or on your chest or belly if you are reclining) on her belly.
● If you are able, walk with her in a Baby Bjorn or other wearable harness/papoose. As long as her head is supported, this is a good way to move around the house and bond with her.
● When she is awake more during the day, make sure to position her in different places so that half the time she is looking to the left and half the time looking to the right. Don’t use a head positioner for this. Simply place her next to a wall so she will be forced to turn her head one way to watch everything else. Then, after a while, turn her around so she has to look the other way.
The key is to get your baby’s head upright as much as possible. And when she does lie down, make sure to alternate her position (looking both left, right and straight ahead).