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What you need to know about your Baby's Flat Head / Misshapen Head / Plagiocephaly

What is the significance of Plagiocephaly during infancy?

Medical research studies have shown that up to 39% of babies with plagiocephaly have developmental delays with motor coordination and learning abilities, which can continue on into their school years (1,2).

Children do not ‘outgrow’ coordination developmental delays without help. (3)

It is important to know that these studies demonstrate an association of plagiocephaly with developmental delays – NOT a causal relationship. In other words – the research does not conclude that a child with plagiocephaly will have developmental delays, but rather that it is a risk factor for, or associated with developmental delays. At this stage it is not known why these children are more prone to having developmental delays – some speculations are that it is a sign that the infant may have some degree of spinal tension leading to lack of body coordination. It may also be that the child has spent too much time on their backs and not enough time on their tummy exploring and learning how to control their head movements (the first developmental milestone).

So what can be done!?

Firstly, it must be understood that the goal is to attain good motor coordination.

The goal is not primarily to change an infant’s head shape; as doing so alone has not been shown to have a great effect on a child’s development. (1)

Proper motor coordination development creates nerve pathways that are critical for how we begin to organize our thoughts, actions and learning. (3)

It is recommended to take a few steps of action to ensure your child grows to their full health potential. Prevention is best, and many of the following tips are recommended whether or not your child’s head is misshapen. Don’t fret if your baby’s development is different than your friend’s. Everyone develops at different speeds, some children may need more help and patience than others, and the following tips are a great way to aid in their progress.

Tips for Parents and Caregivers:

• Always place babies to sleep on their backs: this remains the safest way to sleep, minimizing SIDS. Change the position of your baby in their crib nightly (head to toe). Babies like to look at objects and this will help them to not turn their head the same side at every sleep.

• ‘Tummy Time’. When your child is awake find ways to interact and play with your child on their tummy several times each day. This will encourage motor development and coordination of their head and neck (one of the first developmental milestones)

• Hold your baby in different positions regularly, alternating arms. This is to avoid your child developing preferential postures.

• Use strollers, car seats, infant seats, bassinets, cribs and play pens when necessary. Babies need frequent lap time, cuddling, active play times and chances to move and explore.

• Develop motor skills: play with babies to get them moving. Encourage crawling, rolling, reaching, pushing, pulling, holding, grasping.

• Develop cognitive skills: play with babies to get them thinking and talking. Encourage interactions with their environment, looking, listening, imitating, babbling, singing, talking, reading to them.

• Have your child assessed by a chiropractor competent in pediatrics to assess their nervous system development and possible spinal tension that could be leading to a preferential posture.
Learn more about this here

If you have more questions or concerns feel free to contact our office to speak to one of our chiropractors.

Written by Dr. Nik Dukovac, Family Chiropractor.

Dr. Nik Dukovac practices in two locations:
In the Adelaide Hills at Better Back Chiropractic in Oakbank And
In the southern suburbs of Adelaide at Adelaide Family Chiropractic in Morphett Vale.

References:
(1) Miller RI and Larren SK. Pediatrics. 2000 Feb; 105(2):E26. Long-term developmental outcomes in patients with deformational plagiocephaly.
(2) Kordestani RK et. al. Plastic Reconstruction Surgery. 2006 Jan; 117(1):207-18. Neurodevelopmantal delays in children with deformational plagiocephaly.
(3) Kirby and Sugden. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 2007; 100: 182-186. Children with developmental coordination disorders.
(4) Nicola Ann Douglas et. al. JOURNAL OF CLINICAL CHIROPRACTIC PEDIATRICS Volume 15, No. 3, December 2016. pp: 1274-9. Chiropractic care for the cervical spine as a treatment for plagiocephaly: a prospective cohort study.