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 Flat Head Syndrome

By Katherine Penny, D.O.

​Babies grow and develop at incredible rates. To accommodate this, their body composition is much different than that of a full-grown adult, or even an elementary-aged child. To adjust to a quickly-growing brain, an infant’s skull is soft and flexible. It’s a marvel of nature that the body can change like this, but it also puts babies at risk of developing a condition called flat head syndrome.


What is Flat Head Syndrome?

Flat head is a condition when a baby’s skull is misshapen or more flat on one side as a result of inconsistent pressure on all sides of the head. There are two types of flat head:

  • Plagiocephaly: only one side of the baby’s head is flattened
  • Brachycephaly: the baby’s head appears wide and short, sometimes the back of the head has an increased height

Flat head syndrome may cause one side of your baby’s head to bulge or facial features to be asymmetrical

Flat Head Syndrome Prevention

Though approximately one in five babies develops flat head syndrome, the condition is easily preventable. For the most part, prevention just includes switching your baby’s position so that pressure is not always on one side of the head. This can be accomplished through a few methods:

  • Tummy time: When awake, put your baby on his or her tummy to play with you. This strengthens new muscles and takes pressure off the back of your baby’s head.
  • Alternate positions: Doctors still encourage parents to put babies on their backs to sleep, but to reduce your baby’s chances of developing flat head, alternate which side your baby’s head is facing. Also take this into consideration when feeding, holding and changing your baby.

When to See a Doctor

Often, flat head rounds out naturally over time. However, if your baby’s head does not seem to be adjusting or if you believe there is excessive flattening, talk to your pediatrician.