Understanding Positional Plagiocephaly in Babies

Head shape

Positional plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome, is a condition where a baby’s head becomes flattened in one area. This can happen when a baby spends a lot of time lying on their back, leading to pressure on the same spot of the skull. As an editor of a parenting news website, it’s important to provide information to American parents about this common condition and how to address it.

Understanding Positional Plagiocephaly

Positional plagiocephaly is a common occurrence in infants, as their skulls are soft and moldable during the first few months of life. This means that spending a lot of time in one position can cause the skull to become flattened in that area. This can happen when babies are placed in car seats, bouncers, or cribs for extended periods, or when they have a preference for turning their head to one side while sleeping.

While positional plagiocephaly is generally not a cause for concern in terms of a baby’s brain development or overall health, it can result in aesthetic changes to the shape of the baby’s head. In some cases, if left untreated, it may lead to asymmetry in the face and head.

Treatment and Prevention

There are several ways to address positional plagiocephaly and prevent it from worsening. One important strategy is to encourage supervised tummy time while the baby is awake. This helps to develop neck and shoulder muscles, as well as prevent prolonged pressure on the back of the head.

Babies should also be placed in different positions during the day, alternating the side of the head they rest on. This can be done by switching the direction of the crib or changing the way the baby is positioned in a bouncer or car seat. Additionally, using a specialized pillow or mattress designed to reduce pressure on the baby’s skull can also help prevent flat head syndrome.

If positional plagiocephaly is identified, a healthcare provider may recommend physical therapy or exercises to improve the baby’s range of motion and decrease the tendency to favor one side of the head. In some cases, a helmet or headband may be prescribed to redirect skull growth and correct the flattened area.


Positional plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome, is a common and mostly harmless condition in infants. It occurs when a baby’s skull becomes flattened in one area due to prolonged pressure. However, there are preventative measures and treatment options available to address this condition and ensure healthy skull development. Encouraging supervised tummy time and alternating the baby’s resting position, as well as using specialized pillows or mattresses, are practical ways to prevent and manage positional plagiocephaly. If the condition persists, healthcare providers can offer additional interventions such as physical therapy or corrective headgear.


1. Is positional plagiocephaly preventable?

While some cases of positional plagiocephaly may be unavoidable, there are steps that parents can take to reduce the risk. Practicing supervised tummy time, alternating the baby’s head position, and using specialized pillows or mattresses can help prevent flat head syndrome.

2. When should I seek medical attention for my baby’s positional plagiocephaly?

If you notice that your baby’s head shape is becoming increasingly asymmetrical or flat, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider. They can assess the severity of the condition and recommend appropriate interventions to address it.

3. Will my baby need to wear a helmet for positional plagiocephaly?

In some cases, healthcare providers may recommend a helmet or headband to redirect skull growth and correct the flattened area. This intervention is typically used for more severe or persistent cases of positional plagiocephaly.