Baby Sleeping

Is a Baby with a Flat Head Normal?

A new study in the Journal of Pediatrics – and the media coverage it has sparked – may have some parents concerned. The study, published this week, found that nearly 46 percent of two-month-olds have a flat spot on their heads. The flat areas are caused by pressure on the skull due to laying infants on their backs to sleep. However, the benefit of this greatly outweighs the risk. Ever since the American Academy of Pediatrics released a study a decade ago, which recommended that parents lay infants on their backs to sleep, there has been a 50 percent decrease of Sudden Infants Death Syndrome.

In my 10 years of practice at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, I have only seen a few cases in which an infant needed further attention to their flat spot, such as a fitting for soft helmets that helps the head to grow into a rounder shape. This type of follow up is very uncommon.You should discuss concerns with your pediatrician, but generally parents should continue to lay their infants on their backs to sleep, as flat spots typically go away as the infant grows.

Some tips for parents to prevent a flat spot, in addition to talking to their pediatrician about their concerns, include:

  • Encourage “tummy time” when the baby is awake and strong enough to lift her head
  • Keep baby from laying on his back for long periods while awake
  • Alternate sides in which you hold your baby when breastfeeding or bottle feeding
  • Promote head turning while awake and playing

I recommend that parents should not only see their infant’s pediatrician if questions or concerns arise, but on a regular basis to make sure their child’s health and growth is on track. For more information on this topic, watch my interview on WBNS-10 TV.

Stephen Hersey, MD
Stephen J. Hersey, MD, is a staff physician in Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Section of Ambulatory Pediatrics and a Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He provides direct patient care and supervises pediatric residents in the Main Campus Primary Care Center, Red Team. His interests include developmental pediatrics, asthma, and infectious disease.

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