Dear Building Cathedrals,
My 4-mos-old son, Sean, is suffering from a flat head due to all the time spent on his back. I know pediatricians have just started recommending back sleeping in the last few years and we all slept on our fronts and had nice round heads to show for it. All the mothers in my life who had front-sleeping babies can't stand Sean's head! And this is a C-Section head!
Do your babies have flat heads like this too? Am I to take solace knowing that there will be at least one generation of flat-headed babies and Sean will have classmates with similar head shape? Does it get round again at some point? Or is Sean in a football-head league of his own? Help!
-Erin, North Carolina
First things first, kudos to you as a first-time mommy for enduring the criticism of those around you!! There is nothing like first-time-motherhood and feeling like you have to measure up to others' expectations. I applaud your sincere questioning in the midst of scrutiny!! Just know that 1) you are not alone and 2) there are ways to help Sean's head.
I write in response to your query with a bit of personal experience. M, my first, also had a very soft skull as do most young children (except for Red's kids who have iron skulls--really, they have beautifully-shaped heads that stay round regardless of time spent on their backs! Amazing!) We noticed within the first few months that M's head was becoming pretty flat. He loved to sleep on his back, looking straight up. He enjoyed time on his "play gym", which also meant more time and pressure on his little head. Basically any activity we did (except tummy time) required M to be on his back. Alas, I had to take action!! Since then I've become rather OCD in my approach to the problem, but the result has been nicer, rounder heads for my boys!
Here are some tips for giving Sean's little head "a break":
--Try placing a rolled blanket behind his head when he sits in a car seat or bouncy chair just enough to prevent his head from touching the back of the contraption. I find time spent in these types of chairs really flattens the head a good bit. Any relief you can give will help.
--Use a sleep positioner like this one to prop Sean on his back/side while sleeping. I usually angle the baby just a small bit toward his left or right side and switch sides for each nap. The wedges on the side have Velcro to help prop the baby and prevent him from rolling over. I usually will stop using this after my babies start to roll more.
--Shift his head while he's sleeping. Once he's in deep enough sleep, you could try turning his head to the left or right to take some pressure off of the back. Funny enough, though, babies can also develop a flat spot on the left or right side as well. One of my nephews had this and it really stressed out my poor sister!
--As soon as Sean has more trunk stability, get him off the floor and in something like an Exersaucer. M's head did gain more roundness as he aged, especially because he loved his daily time in his "office" (as we affectionately called the Exersaucer!) You will find that with each passing month, things will naturally improve because Sean is generally more upright.
And if all else fails, doctors can prescribe a special head-shaping helmet for children with extreme shape problems. My nephew almost ended up with one of these, but thankfully nature took its course and corrected the problem in due time.
Take care, Erin, and best of luck with these suggestions!
And as you well know, you have a beautiful, healthy little boy and that is most important! :)