Plagiocephaly (Flat Head Syndrome)

What is plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly, sometimes known as ‘flat head syndrome’, is a common condition which can be caused by babies spending a lot of time lying on their back, premature birth or tight neck muscles, amongst other causes. The condition affects babies while their skull bones are still soft and malleable. Plagiocephaly does not have any adverse effect on the brain’s development or indicate damage to the brain.

a newborn baby yawning
a newborn baby sleeping

Does my baby have plagiocephaly?

If you think your baby might plagiocephaly, you can check for these signs. A good time to check your baby’s head is during bath time when their hair is wet (if they have any!) and so the shape of their head is more visible:

  • A flattened area on the side or back of the head.
  • Their head may appear slanted in a certain area.
  • Ears that aren’t even. Plagiocephaly can cause the ears to appear misaligned.
  • A bald spot in one area of the head.
  • Bony ridges on the skull.
  • Lack of a soft spot (or fontanelle).

What to do if my baby has plagiocephaly?

The shape of the skull will improve naturally over time, but your doctor can make recommendations to assist. Regular tummy time for your baby, and adjusting the positioning of their cot and toys to encourage your baby to turn away from the flat area, are small changes you can make in the meantime.

Physiotherapy may also be recommended after the medical assessment to help ease neck movements in both directions. Specific moulded pillows may also be trialled and in more severe cases, helmet therapy may also be considered.

A mother comforting their baby in their cot
A baby laughing during a check up

When to see a doctor?

If you are worried about the shape of your baby’s head, speak to your doctor. Although the condition does not cause serious concern, early medical advice and intervention from a paediatrician can prevent it from getting any worse. It is important to rule out other causes of asymmetrical head shape, although these are rare.

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