Flat spots on baby's head

A recent study has found that 47 percent of babies have flat spots on the back or side of their head – called positional plagiocephaly. Dr. Kristen Bettin, a Le Bonheur pediatrician, weighs in on this topic below.

What causes these flat spots?

Most of these flat spots are due to positional plagiocephaly, a condition where one side of the head or the back of the head becomes flattened from the child being kept in one position. This condition is usually not serious and can be corrected with some simple changes in positioning.

Why is it so common now?

The presence of positional plagiocephaly has increased since new recommendations were made to place babies on their backs to sleep to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS or “crib death”).

Should parents be concerned if their baby has this? What can/should they do to “fix” or prevent it?

Parents should continue to place babies on their backs to sleep to prevent SIDS; however, some simple changes can be made to reduce the risk of developing flat spots.

  • Parents should give infants “tummy time” multiple times throughout the day while the child is awake and supervised. This not only relieves pressure on the head from lying on the back but also promotes better head and neck control in the infant.
  • Parents can also alternate the direction in which the baby’s head is placed in the crib during sleep time.
  • Time spent in bouncy chairs, car seats and carriers should be minimized when possible to avoid excess pressure on the back of the head.
  • Try holding your baby upright more often.

Most children outgrow these flat spots with no further treatment necessary; however, some children do require referral to a specialist if the problem is severe or does not improve with time.