A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Helmets can help with infant head shape

When you were born, your skull bones were soft and not joined together. Plates of bones with sutures held the structure together, which allowed the plates to move during birth. The sutures later allowed the bones to move so the brain could grow.

Newborn baby in mother's arms - Infant head shape

Don’t worry if baby’s head looks a little funny after delivery. It should go back to normal within the first few days.

“Your skull isn’t solid when you’re a newborn,” said Dr. Rebecca Allen, Marshfield Clinic Health System pediatric physician. “It’s made that way so those bones can mold and overlap, otherwise their head wouldn’t fit through the birth canal.”

If a baby’s head comes out during delivery looking a little funny or cone-like, the shape should adjust within a few days after birth.

If the swelling on your baby’s head is very large, talk to your doctor. Cephalohematoma causes damage to blood vessels under the skin on the skull and may create a bump on the infant’s head. Children also may experience some soft tissue swelling or bruising if a suction is used during childbirth, but these symptoms usually subside.

“Most of those things aren’t going to hurt the baby,” she said, “but they look very unusual.”

Helmets may help with flat spots

Depending on how your child lays in their crib, or laid inside your uterus, one side of their head may have developed a flat spot. A flat head doesn’t hurt the child’s brain development, but may require a helmet to fix the shape.

Although it’s recommended for a newborn to sleep on their back to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, Allen suggests switching your baby’s position throughout the day and allowing plenty of tummy time.

Around four to six months, if your child’s head is still flat, your physician may propose wearing a helmet. The helmet’s mold gradually changes during this process to form the proper head shape. Depending on your child’s age, a helmet is typically worn for six months.

“You really want to get a helmet on by nine months because if they are much older than that, it usually won’t work very well,” Allen said. “Luckily, once their hair begins to grow out, you won’t notice the shape as much.”

By bringing your child in for their well-baby visits, your provider knows what to look for when it comes to concerns about head shape. It’s important to bring your child in to know whether it’s a normal flat head or something more serious.

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