If you’ve seen a baby wearing a helmet, you might be wondering why?
Maybe you think the parents are being overprotective for putting a helmet on their baby.
Or your baby’s doctor has recommended a helmet.
In fact, the helmet is usually there as a treatment for a medical condition.
Baby cranial helmet
Baby cranial helmet therapy is often used to treat flat head syndrome. Many experts believe helmet therapy can help mold the baby’s head into the correct shape, reversing the appearance of the flat head.
The baby cranial helmet is one of a number of products claiming to improve a baby’s skull shape. However, the jury is out on whether helmet therapy devices actually work.
Flat head syndrome
Flat head syndrome is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a condition characterized by the flat appearance of the baby’s head.
Some babies’ heads are severely flattened and others simply appear to be slightly flattened.
How common is flat head in babies?
Flat head syndrome is quite common. The condition affects around one in five babies at some stage.
In most cases, the condition isn’t a cause for concern, and the baby’s head shape will improve without treatment.
Is flat head syndrome bad?
No, flat head syndrome is not usually a cause for concern. Most cases resolve themselves without treatment. If you’re worried about your baby’s skull shape, you should speak to your healthcare provider.
At what age is flat head diagnosed?
The age at diagnosis varies between babies. Some babies can have an undiagnosed case that resolves without treatment. Others will be diagnosed only when their parents take them to see their doctor.
There are two types of flat head syndrome:
In this condition, the head is flattened on one side. The head will look asymmetrical and the ears might be misaligned. In cases of plagiocephaly, the forehead and face may bulge slightly on the flat side.
In this condition, the back of the head is flattened. Brachycephaly can cause the head to widen and might make the forehead bulge out.
What causes flat head syndrome?
A baby’s skull is soft and the bones aren’t joined together. This allows the baby’s skull to change shape as it moves through the birth canal.
The malleable bones also make space for the baby’s growing brain during the early months of life.
Flat head syndrome can be caused by:
- Sleeping on the back. Spending a lot of time in one position can cause a flat spot to appear on the baby’s head. It’s still vital to place babies on their backs to sleep, to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Problems in the womb. Some babies are born with flat head syndrome
- Being born prematurely. Premature infants have softer skulls and often spend more time lying down in an incubator
- Neck muscle tightness. Some babies find it difficult to move their heads a particular way, which can put more pressure on the other side of the head
Read BellyBelly’s article Flat Head Syndrome – 7 Tips To Prevent Flat Head In Babies for more information.
Why are so many babies wearing helmets?
Some parents choose to use a baby helmet to improve the appearance of their baby’s head. Helmet molding therapy is usually paid for privately as it’s not recommended in most cases of flat head syndrome.
The number of babies wearing a helmet might be increasing because more are suffering from this condition.
On the other hand, it might be because more parents are resorting to helmet therapy in an attempt to cure flat head syndrome.
Why do some babies wear helmets?
While most babies wear a helmet because of flat head syndrome, others might do so for protection. Some baby helmets on the market aim to protect crawling infants and toddlers from harm.
Although this might seem overprotective, it’s important to remember some babies could be more at risk of falling, or of serious harm in the event of a fall.
As a general rule, it’s better not to judge other parents. Simply assume they have a good reason for doing what they do. Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place in which to parent if we weren’t so quick to judge other parents?
How do you know whether your baby needs to wear a helmet?
You’ll know if your baby needs to wear a helmet because your healthcare provider will tell you.
If you’re worried your baby might be suffering from flat head syndrome, you should make an appointment to discuss treatment options, including helmet therapy, with your baby’s doctor.
Does flat head correct itself?
Mild cases of flat head syndrome will usually improve without treatment. As babies grow, they’ll spend less time in one position.
As their neck muscles strengthen, they’ll be able to turn their heads when lying down. When they can sit up, they’ll spend less time putting pressure on the head.
In most cases, flat head syndrome is no longer noticeable by toddlerhood. Even severe cases will improve over time, although some flattening might remain even after your baby’s second birthday.
If you’re worried about the shape of your baby’s head, speak to your baby’s doctor for advice and to discuss whether helmet therapy is the right choice.
Baby helmet cost
A baby helmet isn’t cheap and costs are usually not covered by medical insurance. There’s limited evidence to support the use of baby helmets and so most insurers don’t cover this treatment option. Baby cranial helmets can cost around $2000, although the cost can vary greatly between providers.
Most cases of flat head syndrome will improve over time without the need for a baby helmet. Baby cranial helmet therapy is expensive and you’ll need to consider carefully whether it is worth spending money on a treatment that might not work.
How long do babies need to wear helmets?
Baby helmet therapy usually begins at around five or six months of age and lasts for several months. During this time, babies will wear the helmet for up to 23 hours a day. This might be uncomfortable and distressing for them.
Some infants suffer from skin irritation due to long periods wearing a helmet. Before embarking on helmet therapy, it is important to speak to your baby’s doctor.
Are baby helmets uncomfortable?
Some babies find the helmets uncomfortable and might become frustrated when wearing one. Other infants seem to adapt easily to the helmets and seem happy to wear them.
Whether your little one is happy to wear the helmet or not will depend on individual personality.
Are baby helmets really necessary?
No, in many cases, helmets aren’t really necessary. With limited proof they work, helmets aren’t a great option for your baby.
In severe cases, you might feel it’s worth trying. In mild cases, however, it’s probably better to wait to see if the problem resolves itself. Speak to your pediatrician or doctor for guidance.
How can I shape my baby’s head?
If you’re concerned about your baby’s head shape, you should try to limit the amount of time spent lying on the flat spot.
It’s important to place your baby on her back to sleep to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. You should also be mindful of her position during waking hours to help even out the head shape.
Using a sling or carrier during the day might help. In a sling, your baby won’t be putting pressure on the back of the head as she would in a pram or pushchair.
If your little one often leans to one side, use toys to encourage her to look the other way.
Use tummy time to encourage your infant to spend time on her tummy each day. If your baby isn’t a fan of tummy time, use toys and parental interaction to encourage her.
Be sure to read Tummy Time – 6 Ways To Do It (And How To Make It Fun!) for more tips.
Most importantly, try to remember flat head syndrome is a condition that’s likely to resolve itself in time.