Have you ever contemplated if your baby has a weird shaped head? If you’re a first-time parent, it is impossible for you not to have thought about the shape of your baby’s head. Starting from your 12 week ultrasound, or NT scan, you are made to start thinking and this thought process goes on long after the baby’s birth, and sometimes even longer than the first year of the baby’s life.
The first thing I will say here is: Do. Not. Worry. Babies are born with a soft and flexible skull, which is why people in some cultures try to “mold” the head into a certain shape or try to attain the “perfect head shape” whatever that is in their eyes. When babies are born, especially in the case of vaginal birth, babies’ heads may be slightly misshapen because of the pressure they go through in the birthing canal.
Newborns are famous for having two soft spots on their heads. These are called fontanels, which are spaces in between the bones of the baby’s skull because the formation isn’t complete. Fontanels are present so that the newborn head can be flexible enough to pass through the birthing canal, and also so that the head can go back into shape.
Cone Shaped Head
Many babies are born with a cone-shaped head. I should know because I was born with one. But here I am writing about it, so if your baby’s head has such a shape, just know that they can write about it later. Just kidding, I meant, don’t worry. This is the most common type of misshapen head in babies. A cone-shaped head usually goes back to “normal” within 24 to 48 hours of time, but in certain cases, it can take up to a couple of weeks.
Baby flat heads are very common but this is more a doing of the parent rather than the baby being born with a misshapen head like in the case of a cone shaped head. While laying the baby flat on his back, because “back is best”, we often forget that we can still turn the head to the side. The head does not necessarily have to be facing the ceiling just because the baby is swaddled up and on his or her back. So because of making the baby lie down constantly on his back while facing upwards, babies tend to form a flat spot at the back of their heads… This is also known as the flat-head syndrome.
Flat head syndrome, or baby flat heads can be of two kinds. There is the one that we discussed, where there is a flat spot at the back of the baby’s head. This is called Brachycephaly.
The second kind is where the baby keeps his head more on one side than another, so eventually the baby’s head becomes flattened on the side that it’s mostly on. This can be described as looking similar to a parallelogram when viewed from the top, and if it worsens it can affect the placement of the baby’s eyes and ears also. This condition is called Plagiocephaly, which literally means oblique head.
There is a third kind which is simply when both Plagiocephaly and Brachycephaly are present and the baby’s head is flat from the side and from the back at the same time.
Should I Be Worried About My Baby’s Weird Shaped Head?
The answer to this is no. Babies aren’t born with perfectly round heads and how many times have you heard of the perfectly round head award anyway? I have two children and I promise you, no one except my family knows that I was born with a cone shaped head. Well, except you now, because I told you. But are you taking me less seriously because of the shape of my head? No? Then you shouldn’t be worried.
When Should I Worry?
Now that’s a better question to ask. Cone shaped heads that are because of a difficult birthing process get rounded on their own so there’s no need to worry about that unless the doctor tells you to. Believe me, the head does go by the doctor, and is definitely noticed.
About baby flat heads that come into existence because of the way babies’ heads are positioned and the pressure on a baby’s soft skull, these take a little more time, but they are still usually not a cause for worry. Babies with weird shaped heads are usually not problematic and it is usually considered a cosmetic issue. According to Mayo Clinic, these flat spots that occur because of how the babies are positioned when they sleep don’t interfere with your baby’s growth and development and do not cause brain damage.
Having said that, if you are still worried, and your instinct tells you to go to a doctor, then go to the doctor! It will take the burden off your mind, and the doctor will tell you how to make it better.
What Should I Do To Treat My Baby’s Uneven Shaped head?
You should still continue to make your child sleep on his back because regardless of anything else, a baby with a weird shaped head is better than no baby. [SIDS is real and it is more important to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome due to sleeping on his tummy, and not being able to breathe due to burying his or her nose in the bed.] What you can do, however, is that you can turn your baby’s head in the opposite direction of the flat spot.
For instance, if your baby has a flat spot on the left side because he prefers the left side then you keep shifting his head on the right side. If he keeps changing it, you have to keep changing it back until he feels comfortable. Also, you may want to change sides and arms while feeding your baby, because that may be a bigger influence than you think. So if he is formula fed and you hold the bottle in your right hand while putting his head in your left arm, then maybe switch that around.
If your baby has a flat head at the back of his head, then it’s time to let him sleep on the sides of his head now. Make him or her sleep on either side every day so that the pressure is lifted from the back of the head and neck, and applied to the sides. What you can also do is hold your baby up and about when he is awake, or wear him, instead of putting him in the stroller, or swing, or carrier, so that he has minimal pressure on his head when he is up.
Tummy time is a real savior in this situation. The more tummy time a baby gets, the more the chances are that any misshapenness goes back to normal as soon as possible. It hastens the process for sure because the baby is giving rest to the flat spot on his or her head and the pressure is being relieved for that time period.
If your child’s doctor feels that your baby’s flat head is quite severe and can turn into a deformity, and the head isn’t getting fixed on its own, the doctor may suggest a non-invasive intervention. He may suggest that the child wears a molded helmet so that the shape of the baby’s head can grow into the shape of the helmet and fix itself. This is of course only possible if the child’s skull is still soft and growing, and is for the doctor to decide if your baby needs one or not.
Hence, it is very much treatable and your child has a weird shaped head, because either he or she has worked so hard to come into this world that they are the temporary battle scars to prove it, or they are due to pressure. Either way, they will take their time and go back to the natural shape of the head. Don’t ever let society or anyone ever pressure you into thinking your little bundle of joy is anything less than perfect!
How long will it take for my child’s weird shaped head to go back to normal?
It really depends on whether your child has had an uneven head since before birth, because of the birthing process, or because of the positioning pressure and how the baby has been sleeping. There are different timelines for each of these. If your baby has an uneven or weird shaped head because of a difficult delivery, then it may take 24 hours to a couple of weeks to get it back into shape. If it was because of positional pressure, then it may take months and may come back to a round-looking shape or close to a round-looking one up to 2 years of age. Sometimes it may never go back to the perfect round, but as long as your child is healthy and active, and the doctor isn’t concerned, that head will be hidden by a mop of beautiful hair.
How do I know that I should get my baby’s uneven shaped head checked by a doctor?
I would say trust your instinct. There is nothing stronger than a mother’s instinct. If you want to get your baby checked don’t let anything stop you, just get him or her checked. Having said that, if your baby is having trouble breathing, seeing, hearing, or cooing because of the shape of his head, then you should definitely rush to the doctor and have it checked out. If you think it’s affecting the way he is responding to you, then too, you should get a check-up by all means.