I Worried Too Much About 'Flat Head Syndrome'

It's hard not to worry about Flat Head Syndrome when you're a new parent and your child is young. You ask yourself over and over, Is she doing enough tummy time? How do I get her off the back of her head?  There's absolutely no shame if your baby needs a moulded helmet to fix severe plagiocephaly or craniosynostosis; however, the worry over wearing these helmets is enough to drive any parent crazy, and in our case unnecessary.

I was one of those moms who was constantly scared of FHS — even after our pediatrician said our baby had a beautifully shaped head. She loved tummy time as a newborn, but later she decided she would rather lie on her back and play with toys that way. Commence the mommy freak out. After a while, I gave up and agreed that her head shape was, in fact, fine and my worry subsided. A little bit.

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In June, when she was eight months old, we went to an appointment for a lip tie consultation. While the doctor was examining her lip, he asked me if anyone had ever told me she had a flat head. Way to send me back into a spiral, doc. I told him what our pediatrician said. Instead of calming my fears, he said, "I've had referrals for less than this," as he mapped my daughter's head with his hands. I was so upset. I felt like my diligence in keeping her off the back of her head was for nothing, and that I was wrong to give in and let her play how she wanted to play.

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We made another appointment to talk about helmets, but it wasn't until almost September. The delay was upsetting, at first. As time went on, however, I became less worried about FHS. Our daughter had gained better neck control and had stopped playing on her back. She'd started sitting up, crawling, and being more independent, plus I'd had extra time to research FHS and the before and after photos of children who needed helmets. Our baby's head didn't look anything like the before photos. My husband and I chose to go to the consult for peace of mind and decided we'd skip the helmet unless the doctor said there was a true problem.

Would you believe, when that appointment finally rolled around, that we saw another doctor who said there was nothing wrong with her head shape? He was friendly, informative, and his demeanour told me there was absolutely nothing to worry about. He took some measurements, smiled, and said, "By all standards, your baby is perfectly normal." The look in his eyes told another story: Stop worrying so much. I felt very silly, but this mama still breathed a sigh of relief.

He said a baby's head shape changes a lot when they're young, and as they become more mobile and their neck becomes stronger, any small flat spots usually correct themselves, as the baby is likely spending less time lying down. His words echoed some of my research before the appointment. I was surprised to find a study saying helmets don't work and aren't worth the cost, and even more surprised to learn that Americans are more likely to jump on the moulded helmet wagon when the issue is purely cosmetic; parents in the UK aren't recommended to use helmets and are usually told to "wait out" their flat head fears.

I'm glad our daughter's head shape was evaluated and I feel a lot better knowing that FHS isn't something I need to worry about. I do wish I'd known this sooner, though, because instead of rushing home to get her out of her car seat, or panicking during meal prep when I saw her flat on her back, I could've relaxed and let her be a baby.

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