Will sleeping on her back cause a flat spot on my baby’s head?
The Back to Sleep campaign (the recommendation to put a baby to sleep on her back when sleeping) to prevent SIDS leads to the possibility that an infant could develop a flat spot on her head. A baby’s skull is soft and the bones are pliable. Consequently, if a baby lies in the same position for a long time, the skull may flatten. This “flat head” is also known as “positional plagiocephaly.” And – for a bit of trivia – the term plagiocephaly is derived from the Greek “plagios” (oblique) and “kephale” (skull) and indicates an abnormal shape or a deformity of the skull of the newborn. The vast majority of these conditions will disappear with age but even if a flattening might remain this will not affect the development of an infant’s brain.
There are several things that you can do to prevent this from happening – primarily, making sure that your little one is not flat on her back all the time when she is awake since it is so very important to have her lie on her back when she is asleep – Back to Sleep!
Here are some things you can do to prevent a flat spot from forming on your baby’s head:
a) When your infant is awake and you are monitoring her, make sure that she has “tummy time.” When on her tummy, your baby is forced to raise and move her head.
b) Alternate the positions of her head from one side to the other when your baby is on her back and occasionally help her gently move her head from side to side if she spends a lot of time in the seat or in a stroller.
c) When you put your baby to sleep, alternate her direction in the crib (putting her head at one end of the crib for some nights and naps and her head on the other side for other nights and naps). This is because babies tend to turn their heads in one particular direction – toward light sources (windows, position lights etc.). So, switching her direction will naturally help her switch the side of her head that she is lying on.
d) When holding your baby in your arms or on your hip, alternate sides for the same reason.
e) Change the arrangement and placement of toys, placing them on different sides of the crib, booster seat, or stroller.
In short, always put your baby on her back to sleep – and be sure to have adequate, supervised tummy time during the day while she is awake so that she does not spend too much time on her back overall!
About Dr. Oliviero Bruni