Have you noticed that your baby prefers turning their head to one side? Have they started getting a flat spot to one side of their head? Perhaps you or others have noticed their face is asymmetrical, or that your baby prefers to look or feed to one side more than the other.

Head and face asymmetries can happen in newborns when the soft, flexible bones of the head are affected by external pressures. It can occur during the birth process, as a baby exits the birth canal or with instrument use. The head bones can also be affected during their time inside the uterus due to the position the baby was in during pregnancy. It usually resolves a month or so after birth. Misshapen heads may also occur when muscle tightness or joint restrictions restricts their movement.

Positional plagiocephaly is when uneven pressure on their head causes the soft bones to develop a bit unevenly from left to right. This in turn can be seen to us adults as a misshapen head, flat spot off to one side of the head, prominent eye brow bones or foreheads on one side, or eye shape differences. It occurs when there is more pressure on one part of the growing skull bones due to their head being in one position for prolonged periods. For example, if a baby had tight neck muscles on one side, then they may have a preference to turn their head to one side. They may they develop a flat spot to the side they are laying on the most. Brachycephaly is the term given when the flat spot is centrally located at the back of the head.

There is another type of plagiocephaly called Synostotic Plagiocephaly  - it is less common and caused by abnormal closure of the gaps between the bones in the head. Please note that this blog is about Positional Plagiocephaly

Our osteopaths are trained to assess your baby for musculoskeletal restriction and tightness that may be impairing your baby’s ability to move their head and neck freely. We take a thorough medical history and assess the rest of your baby’s body (not just they head and neck!) to consider how it may be related to their reason for coming to see us. For example: How are their arms and legs moving? Is their whole body able to move freely to move, to play, to feed and to rest? Are they managing tummy time comfortably and reaching their developmental milestones?

Tummy time is important for many aspects of development, including head and neck control, building on muscle strength and coordination, and progressing neurologically and visually as they get to see the world from a different perspective. Muscle function in this position contributes to head shape while also reducing time spent with pressure on the flat spot. 

Our osteopaths will discuss your baby’s individual situation with you and provide you with relevant advice on tummy time, alternate hand holds and positions for your baby, baby massage and ways to encourage movement at home.

If feeding is affected as well, or you have other health care practitioners such as a Maternal Child Health Nurse or lactation consultants helping you, we are happy to also be part of your healthcare team. In less common instances, there may be significant head shape issues. In these cases, helmet therapy through a specialist clinic like Ortho Kids may be needed. If you have any serious concerns, we encourage you speak to your General Practitioner.

At Your Body Osteopathy, our team is committed to helping our community. If you have further questions or would like to book an appointment, please contact us at Your Body Osteopathy on (03) 9431 6604, or book online through https://www.yourbodyosteopathy.com.au/

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By Catherine Spiteri

Positional Plagiocephly – misshapen head and flat spots