Moms Columns & Blogs

Mother worried about baby's misshapen head






Q. At my son’s 2-month check-up, the pediatrician told us that his head is flatter on one side than the other. My mother says that more babies’ heads are flat because they sleep on their backs. Is this true? Should we start letting our son sleep on his stomach?

In the 1990s, a large study showed that sleeping on the stomach increases the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome. Since that time, parents have been told to position their babies on their backs for sleep. With more infants sleeping on their backs, we have seen increased “nonsynostotic plagiocephaly,” or a misshapen head.

Your infant’s safety is the highest priority; therefore, despite head shape issues, you should continue to put your son to sleep on his back. Once your baby is old enough to roll over onto his stomach on his own, then you can leave him in that position. But you should still place him on his back for sleep.

Q. My 2-month-old daughter seems to prefer looking to the left when she is lying down. Her head is becoming flatter on one side because of it. Is there anything we can do to correct this problem?

Many infants have a preference for head position. Sometimes, these same infants have tight neck muscles and can benefit from neck-stretching exercises that a pediatrician or occupational therapist can teach you.

In other cases, the head preference may be associated with environmental factors. For example, most babies turn toward their mother’s voice. So if the crib is beside your bed, you could lay your infant with her head at the other end of the crib, forcing her to turn in the other direction when she hears your voice. Tummy time also helps prevent head shape problems.

The good news is that because you have identified this problem at such a young age, when the head is malleable, conservative measures are often successful. You should also discuss your concerns with the pediatrician so she can be evaluated for any other underlying conditions.