The skull of a newborn baby is, as we know, malleable. The flexibility of the fontanelles is also an asset during childbirth because it facilitates the passage of the head. After birth, it then allows the brain to “grow” little by little.
What is the cause of this cranial deformation in toddlers?
A deformation of the skull, called plagiocephaly, can however appear in the first months of life. It is more and more frequent: it is estimated that around one in three children is affected.
Its main causes:
- Sleeping on your back : this position, which has been the one recommended for twenty years to prevent sudden infant death, can indeed promote the development of this malformation, especially if the child always rests his head on the same side when lying on the back to sleep. However, there is no question of calling into question the sleeping on the back. Lying a baby other than on his back increases the risk of unexpected death from suffocation or tipping over on his stomach. A position reaffirmed by the High Authority for Health in March 2020.
- The positions in which we install baby are not varied enough: this is the point of view defended by the Association of Referral Centers for Unexpected Infant Deaths. Rather than sleeping on the back, it is necessary to wonder about the fact that the baby is too often “prevented from varying its postures”, for example when it is installed for a long time in seats normally intended for transport by car.
- A bad position of the fetus in utero : this congenital deformity normally resolves itself in the weeks following birth, but in some cases it persists.
the flat head syndrome may be aggravated by a cervico-dorsal torsion, called infant torticollis.
Only aesthetic after-effects?
Whatever the origin, it is important to see if your baby has a flat head, in order to determine the severity of this “abnormality”. In the vast majority of cases, cranial deformities disappear at the age of 2 years with appropriate management. A plagiocephaly, if not corrected, may not go away in adulthood.
In recent years, a debate on the after-effects other than aesthetic in severe plagiocephaly, emerged. “Many studies have questioned the incidence of an imbalance of the jaw with occlusion problem, a visual, auditory or even postural disorder (scoliosis)”, explains Vincent Renard, chiropractor. psychomotor plan were researched.
Faced with the number of cases of plagiocephaly on the rise and the concern of parents, the High Authority for Health (HAS) has recognized the flat head syndrome as a public health issue and issued new recommendations in March 2020.
How to treat flat head syndrome?
- In prevention, “if the sleeping on the back remains the position to adopt when the infant sleeps, the rest of the time he must not be constantly immobilized to prevent him from always resting his head on the same side”, insists the HAS . The head rests, seat-shells, anti-flat head cushions are also not recommended because they prevent the child from moving freely.
- It’s important to change your child’s positions as much as possible when awake. If you bottle-feed her, alternate right and left arms. Ditto when you wear it. For his floor play activities, set him up on a mat with toys around him to encourage him to look to the sides. Avoid playing arches and mobiles which will fix their attention in a single place.
- From physiotherapy exercises to help the child turn to the right side are usually offered.
- the use of osteopathy is also strongly recommended: using precise but gentle manipulations, the osteopath restores the shape of the skull and restores mobility to the child.
- As for the French association of chiropractic, she wishes to emphasize the contribution of this manual practice, which prevents and treats dysfunctions of the musculoskeletal system:
“The chiropractor will take measurements to assess the degree of severity of the deformity and adapt his treatment accordingly, also working on the torticollis and the muscle chains. He can intervene on the newborn from his first hours of life. Two to three. sessions are usually needed to decrease plagiocephaly. “
In the absence of improvement in the cranial deformity after appropriate treatment, the doctor must refer the child as soon as possible to a competence or reference center for cranio-facial malformations (head and neck rare diseases health sector). One tight helmet (cranial orthosis) which allows the head to regain its shape can then be recommended.
– “Prevent plagiocephaly without increasing the risk of unexpected infant death”, HAS press release, March 5, 2020. – “Preventing a flat head, advice for parents”, HAS patient file, December 2020.