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When Is It Necessary to Seek Medical Care for the Newborn’s Head Shape?

Posted on Dec 7, 2022

Medically Reviewed by:  Tatiana Sikorskyj, APN, RNFA
Pediatric Advanced Nurse Practitioner
Reviewed on: October 26, 2023


Understanding the normal development of a newborn’s skull is crucial, as abnormalities can sometimes indicate a rare condition like Craniosynostosis. While many infants experience variations in head shape, about 1 in 2,000 babies may have this condition. The skull of a newborn consists of multiple bones with sutures that allow for brain growth. If you notice any unusual head shape in your baby, it’s essential to seek medical advice promptly. Early detection and appropriate treatment can help address any underlying issues and ensure proper development.  This blog will delve into the signs to look out for when seeking medical care for your newborn’s head shape is necessary.


Baby’s Head: A Brainy Design

In the intricate design of a baby’s head lies a remarkable feature known as sutures, the pliable spaces between the six distinct bones. These sutures play a crucial role not only in facilitating the journey through the birth canal but also in accommodating the rapid expansion of the skull during the initial year of life. However, when craniosynostosis occurs, the premature fusion of two or more bones can lead to distortions in the shape of the skull, brain, and face. It is essential to recognize this condition early to ensure proper development. The marvel of a baby’s head: a brainy design indeed.

Is an Uneven Head Shape Cause for Worry?

An uneven head shape in babies is usually not a cause for worry as it is primarily a cosmetic issue. The flat spots resulting from pressure on the head do not lead to brain damage or affect a baby’s development. As the baby grows stronger and learns to roll over, the pressure on the head becomes more evenly distributed, allowing the head to naturally even out over time. Regularly changing the baby’s position and encouraging tummy time can further aid in this process.

When to Worry About an Abnormal Baby Head Shape

If you notice an abnormal head shape in your baby, it is important to seek early evaluation to determine the cause. This could be due to plagiocephaly, which is a common issue caused by pressure leading to flat spots, or it could be a more serious condition like craniosynostosis, where skull bones don’t fuse properly. Early detection and intervention are crucial for proper management.

Baby’s Head Shape: What Causes a Baby’s Head Shape to Appear Uneven?

A baby’s head shape can appear uneven due to various reasons. During birth, the baby’s head may be molded unevenly while passing through the birth canal. This is because babies are born with soft areas on their heads called fontanels, allowing the skull bones to move and accommodate the narrow birth canal. Over time, a newborn’s head often rounds out as these soft spots grow together.

Another common reason for an uneven head shape is positional molding or positional plagiocephaly. This occurs when a baby spends too much time lying in the same position, leading to pressure on the head. This can result in the back of the baby’s head looking flatter on one side than the other, with the ear on the flat side appearing pushed forward. It’s important to be mindful of your baby’s positioning to prevent this condition from persisting beyond the initial birth-related molding.

If you notice significant or persistent unevenness in your baby’s head shape, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare provider. They can provide guidance on proper positioning techniques and, if necessary, recommend interventions to help correct the issue. Monitoring your baby’s head shape and making adjustments early on can promote healthy development and prevent long-term concerns.

Read More Blogs: 11 Tips To Prevent And Treat Positional Plagiocephaly In Your Baby’s Early Months

How Is an Uneven Head Shape Treated?

Uneven head shape, such as positional plagiocephaly, in infants can be treated effectively by making simple changes in the baby’s daily routine and seeking guidance from a healthcare provider. Firstly, altering the baby’s sleeping position by rotating the direction of the head in the crib can help distribute pressure evenly, reducing head unevenness over time. It is essential to continue placing the baby on their back to sleep while being mindful of adjusting their head’s direction if they tend to return to a previous position.

Additionally, providing regular tummy time for the baby while they are awake and supervised can aid in strengthening their neck and head muscles. This practice, done on a firm surface, not only helps alleviate pressure on the head but also promotes healthy development. Moreover, holding the baby upright when awake, especially after feeding, can further relieve pressure from swings, carriers, and infant seats. Alternating arms during feeding sessions can also contribute to minimizing head unevenness.

In more severe cases, a healthcare provider may recommend physical therapy to address the issue effectively. Physical therapy for positional plagiocephaly typically involves exercises aimed at adjusting the baby’s preferred head position and enhancing muscle strength in the neck and head areas. By following these recommendations and seeking professional guidance, parents can actively contribute to improving their baby’s head shape and overall development.

uneven head shape

Helmets and Head Shape

Helmets can play a crucial role in addressing head shape irregularities in infants. When conventional methods like tummy time and position changes do not yield the desired results by the age of 6 months, a molding helmet may be recommended by the baby’s healthcare provider. These custom-fitted helmets are designed to alleviate pressure on the flattened side of the baby’s head, promoting more symmetrical growth.

The optimal window for the effectiveness of molding helmets is typically between 4 to 12 months of age. During this period, the skull bones are still flexible, and the brain is undergoing rapid development. Initiating helmet therapy within this timeframe maximizes its impact on correcting head unevenness. Beyond the age of 1 year, when the skull bones have fused together and head growth slows down, the efficacy of molding helmets diminishes significantly. Therefore, early intervention is key to achieving the desired outcomes.

Beyond Positional Molding

Beyond positional molding, it is crucial to consider underlying muscular issues that may be affecting a baby’s head shape. Torticollis, for instance, can lead to the baby holding their head tilted to one side. In such cases, physical therapy plays a vital role in stretching the affected muscles, enabling the baby to freely change head positions and alleviate discomfort.

In rare instances, craniosynostosis may be the cause of an abnormal head shape in infants. This condition occurs when two or more bony plates in the baby’s skull fuse prematurely, impacting the growth of the brain and pushing other parts of the head out of shape. Treatment for craniosynostosis usually involves surgical intervention during infancy to separate the fused bones, allowing adequate space for the brain to develop properly.

If parents notice any concerns regarding their baby’s head shape or development, it is essential to engage with the baby’s healthcare provider. By maintaining open communication and seeking professional guidance, parents can address any potential issues early on, ensuring the best possible outcomes for their child’s health and well-being.

FAQs about “Newborn’s Head Shape”

It is common for babies to develop a flat head, affecting about 1 in 5 infants. This condition is usually not a cause for concern as it does not impact brain development. In most cases, the head shape will naturally improve over time. Seek guidance from a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Common head shape abnormalities in babies include positional plagiocephaly, characterized by flattening at the back of the head. Another condition is craniosynostosis, where skull growth plates fuse prematurely, impacting skull and brain development. Regular pediatric check-ups can help identify and address these issues early on, ensuring proper treatment and growth.


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