A new report published this week in the journal Pediatrics contains new recommendations for pediatricians and parents on how to prevent and correct head flattening in babies. The number of babies diagnosed with the misshapen skull syndrome known as positional plagiocephaly has increased exponentially since safe sleep recommendations have had infants spending so much time on their backs, researchers found. And while they in no way suggest that parents ignore the recommended safe sleep practices, researchers suggest that pediatricians counsel parents from their babies' very first checkups on ways to prevent and correct flattening heads.
CNN.com lists 5 of the recommendations, which can help parents avoid placing their babies in skull-correcting helmets if the problem has not improved by 6 months of age:
- - Increase "tummy" time, which is supervised time during the day when baby lies on its stomach. A baby should spend at least 30 to 60 minutes a day on it's belly, something that can be done immediately after birth. This will help develop neck and shoulder muscles, says [the report's lead author, Dr. James] Laughlin. It has also been shown to "enhance motor developmental scores," according to this new report.
- - The NIH recommends changing the direction your baby lies in the crib each week. They say this change will encourage the baby to turn his or her head in different directions to avoid resting in the same position all the time.
- - Some babies prefer to hold their head to one side. Laughlin suggests laying them down in a different way when they're awake, so they have something interesting to look at on the opposite side. If you have them in a car seat or sitting in something else, you can also change the position to make the baby look in the opposite direction.
- - Parents may find their babies sleep well sitting in a car seat, but this is another way they can develop an asymmetrical shape, especially in the first 6 months of life. So experts suggest babies shouldn't spend a prolonged period of time in a car seat (unless they are in a car of course) or bouncy seat.
- - Cuddle! The NIH says "getting cuddle time with the baby by holding him or her upright over one shoulder often during the day," is another way to prevent flat spots.
Image: Baby doing tummy time, via Shutterstock.