How can we prevent the flat head syndrome?

When a newborn arrives in your house, a lot of questions arise. On of the major concerns for all parents is how to prevent the flat head syndrome.

It is therefore important to understand how it happens to find ways to prevent it.

Let's start by defining what plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome is. In fact, it is a flattening of the skull that occurs after a prolonged external pressure on your baby's head. The skull of a baby is very malleable at birth and that is because of the absence of ossification in its sutures, the junctions between the different bones of the skull. This malleability lasts a few months and begins to decrease around the fourth month of your child's life. It is therefore important to use that time to make the necessary adjustments to treat the flattening. Plagiocephaly can cause delays in the overall motor development of a child in his first months of life. It is therefore important to take care of it. The fastest a child is evaluated, the less impact plagiocephaly will have.

What are the possible causes of plagiocephaly?
  • Intrauterine position, which is the position of the baby inside the uterus (lack of space);
  • Reducing cervical mobility can force babies to keep their head always in the same position;
  • A decrease in cervical mobility may be caused, for example, by the intrauterine position, by the use of forceps or vacuum during childbirth;
  • Always placing babies on their back.
Tummy position

“Should we still put him on his tummy” is a question that often comes up. Since the "Back to Sleep" recommendation, the incidence of sudden infant death decreased by 40%1. However, many parents are now concerned about placing children on their tummy during their waking periods. This lack of tummy play could cause early gross motor skills delays and plagiocephaly. In the long run, it can affect the overall development of a child's ability to learn to grab objects, crawl and walk on all fours, stand and walk.

It is important to start putting him on his tummy from birth, a few minutes at a time, for a total of about an hour a day and until the age of three months2. Babies often complain when placed on their stomach. The earlier you start after birth with a regular tummy play schedule, the faster your child will strengthen his neck, body and shoulders muscles. Varying the positions of your child is very important to help develop his muscular3 strength.

Here are some suggestions to help you to place baby on his tummy:

  • Place your baby on his stomach for a few minutes after each diaper change. You can roll a small towel under his arm to raise him a little.
  • Walk your baby around the house, on your forearm and face down. Keep your arms close to your body;
  • Place your baby on his stomach and lie down in front of him. Your child is attracted to your face and voice. Being in front of him will encourage him to lift his head. Move from one side to the other to encourage him to turn his head.
  • Lie down skin-to-skin with your baby but be careful to always keep your hands on him to prevent falls. Since a newborn does not lift his head much, try vary the position of the head (left and right) to prevent it develops a preference;
  • Use a mirror to keep your baby interested during his belly time. Babies like to look at themselves;
  • Lay your baby on your lap while keeping one hand on his buttocks to prevent rolling. Alternate placing your baby's head on your right and left thighs.

What else can I do to support the movement and encourage my newborn to turn his head4?

  • When it's time for your baby to go to sleep, vary the direction of the crib;
  • If you have a mobile, place it in line with his chest or lower to promote the flexion of his neck;
  • When changing his diaper, vary the sides and the position where you stand;
  • Instead of holding your baby by the ankles when changing his diaper, raise his knee to his belly and hold this position with one hand while you change the layer with the other. This will stretch the back muscles of your back;
  • After the bath, place your baby on his tummy to get dry.

What are the warning signs that suggest the need for a chiropractic consultation for my newborn baby?

  • Baby has a positional preference for his head (always left or right);
  • Baby cannot lift his head or push with his forearm around the age of three months;

How can chiropractic help prevent or reduce plagiocephaly?

By manipulations suitable for children, chiropractic care can:

  • By restoring the cervical mobility;
  • By relaxing the cervical muscles;
  • By advising parents about different exercises to do with baby to promote motor development.

Chiropractic is a health care profession that aims to recover and maintain human health by interacting with the nervous, muscular and skeletal systems. Chiropractic adjustments restore joint mobility of the vertebral segments and reduce muscle spasms and inflammation.

In infants, the spinal adjustment is performed with the fingertips and the pressure is very light, like a gentle touch.

A chiropractor’s regular monitoring identifies possible sources of spinal dysfunction and prevents the emergence of future problems. In addition to chiropractic adjustments, the chiropractic care can include recommendations for a healthy lifestyle as ways to improve the posture of your child, tips on wearing a backpack and exercises. Proper spinal hygiene is the key to better health.

For more information, don’t hesitate to contact me.


2 Idem
3 Ferland, Francine, Le développement de l’enfant au quotidien, Éditions de l’Hôpital Ste-Justine, 2004 (In French)

Joëlle Malenfant

Dr. Joëlle Malenfant is a chiropractionner in Quebec City. She has a postgraduate doctorate in chiropractic care for pregnant women and children. She accompanies women in labour and is a volunteer at Entraide Naturo-Lait, an organization supporting breastfeeding. Joëlle is also the proud mother of a 4- year-old boy, Christophe. Clinique chiropratique Maguire 1452, rue Maguire, bureau 100 Québec, Québec G1T 1Z4 Tél : 418.684.0004418.684.0004 Call Send SMS Add to Skype You'll need Skype CreditFree via Skype

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