Friday, September 2, 2011

Little noggins

If you have ever seen a baby wearing a helmet, there is a very good reason
For many years now, parents of newborns are given lots of information about “safe sleeping” for their baby.
Much of the information focuses on how to prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) and advises parents put their babies on their back instead of their tummy when they are sleeping.
While this is definitely the safest sleeping position for a baby, it has led to a rise in plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome, which currently affects about one in 10 Australian babies.
Plagiocephaly is a condition where the back or side of a baby’s head becomes flat or mis-shaped due to prolonged pressure on the skull from flat surfaces, such as a cot mattress.
New babies spend lots of time lying down, and their skulls are quite soft when they’re very young, so sometimes their head shape is affected.
Plagiocephaly is more common in premature babies and mutiple births, as their skulls are very soft.
There are a number of different conditions related to flat head syndrome, including torticollis (where the head persistently tilts to one side), and sometimes facial features can also become unequal in children with plagiocephaly.
Studies have shown that some infants are more at risk of developing flat head syndrome, and some of these characteristics include: male infants, diagnosis of hip dysplasia, diagnosis of reflux, multiple birth and a head shape at birth that is naturally wider than deeper.

To prevent flat head syndrome, it is important to vary your baby’s play positions when they are awake and supervised, as this will enable your baby to strengthen their muscles for movement.
For example, enjoy tummy time with your baby three or four times per day with baby’s arms slightly forward propping them up on their elbows.
You can also put them on your chest, or over a small cushion or rolled up nappy.
Be sure to place baby on alternate sides during playtime and encourage your baby to turn their head to either side through talking and playing with toys.
Vary the positions you use to carry your baby by alternating your arms or shoulders.
Avoid laying baby on their back in car seats, bouncers or swings for long periods of time, and make sure baby’s head is not always turning to the same side.
When you put baby to sleep, continue to lay them on their back as recommended but alternate baby’s head position.
You can also try putting baby to sleep at alternate ends of the cot, place a mobile over the cot or change the position of the cot in the room, encouraging your baby to look in a different direction.
Experts advice not to put baby to sleep in the side position to prevent a flattened spot on the head.
It is possible to correct plagiocephaly if your baby is under four months of age, or still has a soft skull.
If the problem is severe, they may have to be fitted for a corrective helmet or band to reshape their head.
You can also buy special support pillows designed for babies less than six months old.
Until recently, medical professionals thought that a flat head only affected a baby’s appearance, but a recent study from the Seattle Children’s Research Institute suggests that it might be an indicator for developmental delays.
Clinical psychologist Dr Matthew Speltz found that about 25 per cent of babies who had flat head syndrome displayed motor or movement skill delays when compared to babies without the syndrome.
Other associated problems include orthodontic issues, visual disturbances, auditory problems, scoliosis and an increased need for special services when the child reaches school age.
If your child has plagiocephaly, it’s a good idea to speak to your doctor about developmental delays, but remember that babies develop at different rates, so don’t jump to conclusions without a professional diagnosis.
Remember, early prevention and treatment are vital as a child’s skull hardens through the toddler years.


BunBun4life said...

Yeah, I also tried to help my baby sleep on his side by placing a small rolled up thin baby blanket against his back. He never had any 'flat head' problems. I hate to also sound like a blamer, but for god's sake, how long do they let their kids lay down per day? I held and carried my baby all the time, sat him up in a baby recliner, and generally did everything I could to keep him from laying around in his back. Once they're six to 10 months old there should be no problems playing on their stomachs. I just never understood how that happened, and I'll tell you something else. If 25% of the babies also show motor skill defects, etc., I'm sorry, but I'm going to blame neglect.

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