As a first-time mom, I had a lot to learn before our little one arrived. I researched everything from diapers and bottles to monitors and car seats. However, you’re never really prepared for what happens next. What happens once your little one has arrived and you are hit with reality? The sleepless nights everyone tells you about, the reflux, the multiple calls to the pediatrician. Then finally, after a few weeks, you start to feel like you are finally getting a handle on things. Well, 4 months in, our pediatrician suggested we see a specialist to evaluate the shape of Joseph’s head. He was showing signs of plagiocephaly.
A little annoyed, I thought to myself, “Great, my kid’s going to need a helmet!” and immediately started to Google everything. I knew nothing about plagiocephaly, why it happens, or what the “helmet” itself does. It was all very overwhelming at first. It is sometimes known as “flat head syndrome,” a common condition where an infant develops a flat spot on the back or backside of their head.
We were referred to the only company in the world solely dedicated to treating infants with plagiocephaly. After days of researching and reading a number of testimonials, I found that this is actually very common. One in four infants have moderate to severe plagiocephaly and you can usually see signs without having a complete diagnosis.
Key signs to look for when detecting plagiocephaly:
- Head is flat on one side
- One ear is more forward than the other
- One eye is smaller than the other
- One cheek is fuller than the other
- Top of the head is not level
- Head shape resembles a parallelogram from above
Another type of flat head syndrome is called brachycephaly, “brachy” meaning short, and “cephaly” meaning head, in Latin. This occurs when the back of the head becomes flat, causing an abnormally wide, tall head shape.
Key signs to look for when detecting brachycephaly:
- Head is wider than normal
- Head is abnormally tall
- Back of the head is flat rather than curved
- Face appears small relative to the size of the head
- Widest part of the head is just above the ears
- Tips of ears protrude
- Head shape resembles a trapezoid from above.
I learned that many factors can cause a flat spot. But in our case, it was likely caused in the womb, as Joseph was breeched. Although no two cases of plagiocephaly are alike, other common causes are pressure from everyday surfaces, such as beds or car seats. I’ll be honest, we waited a little longer than we should have to take action and didn’t make an appointment with the cranial helmet company till Joseph was almost 7 months old. This delay ultimately prevented us from getting optimal results. Starting treatment between the ages of four and six months, during a period of rapid head growth, has been known to reduce overall treatment time and provide peak results.
So what does the cranial helmet do? A cranial helmet is customized to each baby’s unique head shape to effectively redirect the baby’s natural growth into a normal head shape. The helmet company provides proprietary imaging technology created with the sole purpose of imaging infants’ head shapes with no radiation, lasers, and adhesive markers. Making for a comfortable and stress-free environment.
After getting Joseph’s fitted, it took about 4 weeks for our cranial helmet to arrive; he was now 8 months old. At this point, I still had questions racing through my mind. I wondered if it would be uncomfortable? How long will he need to wear this and how will he sleep? Well, it did not bother him at all! My husband and I joked all the time about how helpful it was with preventing head injuries since Joseph was already crawling around. This little boy did not skip a beat.
We were instructed to keep it on him for 23 HOURS a day. Yes, HOURS!! We only removed it for bath time and it went right back on for bed. You cannot imagine the smell. You can only use rubbing alcohol to clean the helmet and let it air-dry during that one-hour break. Not to mention the COVID-19 panic hit towards the end and we could not find rubbing alcohol ANYWHERE!!
Bi-weekly appointments with the specialist were made to evaluate and make adjustments as needed for the next 4 months. It was also nice to meet other families going through the same process and sharing in the excitement of their little one’s progress. I even got a little crafty and used my Cricut machine to decorate his new accessory with a vinyl decal. His helmet was now a baseball and it made for a great conversation starter. We received so many compliments on how creative the baseball decal was and it gave us the opportunity to bring awareness to others on how important early detection and treatment are.
Just before his first birthday, we went in for our final evaluation. Although the results for the 4 months were not optimal, we were very happy to see how much the cranial helmet helped reshape his head. Looking back at the 4 months and all of the time spent, it was not as bad as I thought it was going to be. I could not recommend the meeting with the staff at the helmet company enough. They were so friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful.