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Keeping Your (Baby’s) Head Up: Knowing What Shape Is Normal And How To Help Shape Your Infant’s Head and Future:

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By Mia Bolaris-Forget

We all know that when babies are born their skulls are soft and that they can’t hold their head straight. But, what most of us may not know is that most newborns enter the world with slightly “off-kilter” heads.

According to experts infant’s “misshapen” skulls can be a result of their heads being unevenly molded in the birth canal or due to spending too much time in one position.

They note that while in most cases things will even out in the long run, a little help from mom and dad may help.

Location, Location, Location: How Positioning Affects Head Shape:

It’s common for an infant’s skull to be “soft” in areas where the skull bones have yet to grow together, primarily at the top of the head. These areas, commonly known as fontanels serve to allow the baby’s head to easily pass through the birth canal. And, it allows for rapid growth during the first 12 to 18 months of life.

The skulls flexibility is essential to the biological survival and development of infants, but it can also lead to an uneven shape if it’s kept in a specific position for too much time; and may even result in permanent lopsidedness known as positional molding.

This “condition” is most apparent when you look at your child’s head from the top down. At this angle, the back of the head may seem flatter on one side than on the other. Also the cheekbone on the flat side may sick out more and the ear on the same (flat) side may appear pushed forward.

Correction Strategies:

Experts note that positional molding is most prevalent in infants who spend most of their time on their backs while in their cribs, in car seats or infant seats. And, while this is the most highly recommended and safest position for sleep, they suggest you take precautions in an effort to help prevent lopsidedness.

· Change Position And Or Direction: Make sure you place your child on his or her back when he or she is sleeping, but you should frequently change the position your baby faces. Another alternative is placing your child’s head near the base of the crib on day, and near the top of the crib and varying your child’s position in the car or infant seat as well.

· Hold Your Child: Making sure you hold your baby while he or she is awake will help alleviate the pressure on his or her head from carriers, infant seats, swings, etc.

· On The Flip Side: Try occasionally turning your child over on his or her tummy, but ONLY when you are able to keep close watch and supervise. Make sure the surface is firm and if you have to leave the room or area, make sure to take your child with you.

· Use Your Imagination: Experts suggest getting creative about positioning your baby so that he or she is “forced” to turn away from the flattened side of his or her head to take a look at his or her surroundings and you, as well as to track movement or sound in the room. And, don’t forget to occasionally reposition the crib to give your baby a new and different view.

Protective Gear:

While experts assert that changing your child’s direction and head position is usually sufficient for helping prevent lopsidedness, they note that you should keep track of improvements and/or lack thereof and informing your physician if you don’t notice any significant changes. You doctor may decide to prescribe a special headband or a molded helmet to help shape the head through gently yet consistent pressure aimed at redirecting skull growth.

They note that helmets and headbands yield the best results from 4 to 12 months, when the skull is still pliable and the brain continues to rapidly grown.

Serious Concerns and Causes:

While experts assert that it doesn’t happen often, occasionally two or more of the bony plates in an infant’s head fuse prematurely. This premature rigidity tends to push other areas of the head out of sync and shape, making it expand. Known as craniosyntosis, this condition is usually treated through surgery during infancy and is meant to give the brain enough space to develop and grow.

Metopic synotosis is a similar condition that causes a pointed forehead and can also be treated through surgery.

Keep It Cool, Calm, Collected And In Perspective:

Don’t make worrying about your child a priority over enjoying your child. Keep in mind that while you should proceed with caution, in most cases you child’s head will even out within a matter of months.

Long Island Family Life & Parenting Articles > Keeping Your (Baby’s) Head Up: Knowing What Shape Is Normal And How To Help Shape Your Infant’s Head and Future:

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