Plagiocephaly | Frequently Asked Questions

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Q: Will my baby be OK?

A: Yes. Plagiocephaly is a very treatable condition that causes only cosmetic changes in a baby’s skull shape. The condition responds extremely well to non-invasive treatments, like:

  • helmeting
  • molding cups
  • exercises
  • changes in sleep position 

Q: Is plagiocephaly common?

A: Yes. Plagiocephaly has always been a common condition, and it’s become even more common since the American Academy of Pediatrics began advising parents to place infants to sleep on their backs to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Although this recommendation has increased the number of babies with plagiocephaly, it has also greatly reduced the number of babies lost to SIDS.

Q: At what age does plagiocephaly develop?

A: Most parents notice the flattening of plagiocephaly when their babies are 6 to 8 weeks old.

Q: Why does the flattening occur?

A: Flattening occurs when the infant’s growing head meets the resistance of a flat resting surface. It’s similar to how a pumpkin develops a flat spot in a field: Since it can’t grow into the ground, it conforms to the ground’s flat shape.

Q: Why do only some infants develop plagiocephaly?

A: Any baby who has a limited ability to reposition his or her head can have this flattening. Babies who have other risk factors, such as muscular torticollis (an imbalance in the neck muscles), being part of a multiple birth or having a mother with a small birth canal may be more likely to have plagiocephaly.

Q: When does the flattening process stop?

A: The flattening usually stops when babies gain head control, typically at around 3 months. A premature or delayed infant may have the flattening for a longer time, since he or she may take longer to reach this milestone.

Q: Can the flattening be prevented?

A: There are two main ways to help prevent flattening:

  • Repositioning the baby often
  • Changing the baby’s sleep surface from flat to concave.

These strategies do not work with all babies and may not help to reverse any flattening that has already occurred.

Boston Children’s Hospital has developed a molding cup, called the Plagio Cradle, that is the only device proven effective to help the mild flattening in some babies and prevent the flattening process altogether.

Q: Does plagiocephaly cause any medical problems?

A: No, there are no known medical problems linked to the condition.

Q: What is the difference between plagiocephaly and craniosynostosis?

A: Craniosynostosis is the premature fusion of one or more of the joints that connect the bones in the skull. Unlike plagiocephaly, this condition may limit the size of the skull, increase pressure inside the skull and damage brain growth. In plagiocephaly, there is no fusion of the skull joints.

Q: Will my child need surgery?

A: Most likely, no. Plagiocephaly is very treatable using non-surgical methods, such as special exercises, changes to sleep position and corrective devices like helmets.

Q: Will my child need physical therapy?

A: Physical therapy can be very helpful for some infants with plagiocephaly — especially those who are born with muscular torticollis, an imbalance of the muscles in the neck.

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- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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