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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Flat Head (Positional Plagiocephaly) is on the rise

What Is Positional Plagiocephaly?Positional plagiocephaly is a disorder in which the back or one side of an infant's head is flattened, often with little hair growing in that area. It's usually caused when a baby spends a lot of time lying on the back or is frequently left in a position where the head is resting against a flat surface (such as in cribs, strollers, swings, and playpens). Because infants' heads are soft to allow for the incredible brain growth that occurs in the first year of life, they're susceptible to being "molded" into a flat shape.
The number of positional plagiocephaly cases increased sixfold from 1992 to 1994, occurring in approximately 33 out of every 10,000 births. The reason for this dramatic increase is that in 1992 the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) began its "Back to Sleep" campaign, which continues to recommend that babies sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)."
Gary Moller comments:
My mother, Maisie, a retired primary school teacher, commented some time ago that this preventible deformity is much more common nowadays because of parents being told make their infants sleep on their backs to prevent SIDS. According to researchers she was right on the button. Do we really want to be producing a whole lot of kids with plates for heads?
A further problem associated with an infant spending excessive time on their back is slow development. Before a baby can roll, then, crawl, then walk; it must be able to lift its head and develop strong back muscles. To lift its head and to develop the postural muscles, the baby must spend plenty of its waking time lying on its tummy.
Here we see a further example of the dangers of prescriptive advice: fix one problem while causing a whole lot of new ones.
Here is some really sensible advice:
Because babies like to have something interesting to look at, they tend to turn their head to look out into their room rather than toward the wall. This way they can see you as you come and go.
Here’s how you can change the position of your baby’s head while still giving her the same ‘view’.
  • One day, place your baby with her head at the head of the crib.
  • The next day, place your baby with her head at the foot of the crib.
  • Each day, alternate your baby’s orientation in the crib.
  • Check to make sure that your baby is always looking out into the room.
And I will add the following:
  • Have your baby with you when it is sleeping during the day and let it sleep on its tummy then or on its side (Incidentally, we raised our children in a bustling and noisy household. The adults ruled the roost. They quickly learned to sleep through just about anything!).
  • When awake, place your baby on its tummy, so that it learns to lift its head.
As with most medical problems of our own making, the solutions are often ridiculously simple.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Gary I would like to point out that this 'flathead' condition is in my opinion a result of baby's being left on their own in cribs too often. In native cultures mothers carry the babies close to their bodies in a sling for most of the day, the head is not on a flat surface for hours on end such as the western culture does where mothering is by necessity the job you fit inbetween your 'real' job. Perhaps the price we pay for our loss of hands-on mothering is a generation of'flatheads'.