-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, April 27 (HealthDay News) -- The incidence of babies
with irregular head shapes, such as a flattened section in the back
of the skull, have increased in the United States since the Back to
Sleep campaign was introduced in 1994 to prevent sudden infant
death syndrome, an expert says.
"There's no doubt that as we as a country began putting babies to sleep on their backs, the incidence of [sudden infant death syndrome] declined significantly," Dr. Sherilyn Driscoll, director of pediatric rehabilitation medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., said in a Mayo news release. "Simultaneously, the incidence of positional plagiocephaly, or head-shape asymmetry caused by babies' sleeping position, increased."
Driscoll said head-shape asymmetries generally are easy to treat
but timing is crucial. Treatment must take place while the skull is
still growing and before the skull bones have fused and soft spots
Head-shape asymmetry should be treated as soon as it's noticed.
One method, called repositioning, involves supervised tummy time
for babies when they're awake or showing them toys and encouraging
them to turn to either side, Driscoll said.
If this approach doesn't work, helmeting therapy can help skull
bones grow in the proper direction. The helmets do not press on or
reshape babies' skulls, Driscoll said in the release. Helmeting
therapy is most effective when it begins at 4 months to 6 months of
age. By the time a baby reaches a year old, only minimal correction
of head shape can be achieved.
Parents who notice a head-shape asymmetry in an infant younger
than 4 months can meet with a specialist to discuss ways to
reposition infants -- in car seats for example -- and strategies to
encourage infants to turn their head toward the less flattened
side, Driscoll said.
She also stressed that a baby with a head shape asymmetry needs
to be seen by a specialist who can determine if the shape is due to
the baby's sleeping position or some other cause.
"There are a few less-common conditions of greater concern, such as craniosyntosis, that can cause a head-shape asymmetry, and those need to be ruled out first," Driscoll said.
The U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human
Development has more about
head asymmetry in infants.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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