Battling Positional Plagiocephaly: Tips for Parents

Positional plagiocephaly, also known as flat head syndrome, is a condition where a baby’s head becomes misshapen due to prolonged pressure on one spot. This can happen when babies spend a lot of time lying on their backs, as recommended for safe sleep practices. While positional plagiocephaly is common and typically not harmful, it can be concerning for many parents.

Understanding Positional Plagiocephaly

Positional plagiocephaly occurs when a baby’s skull is still malleable, and pressure on one part of the head causes it to flatten. This often results in a flattened area on one side of the head, or a misshapen head overall. Factors that can contribute to positional plagiocephaly include spending a lot of time in car seats, swings, or bouncers, as well as being born with a tight neck muscle or a breech presentation.

Tips for Prevention and Management

While some cases of positional plagiocephaly may improve on their own as the baby grows and becomes more active, there are steps parents can take to help prevent and manage it:

  • Encourage supervised tummy time when the baby is awake, to reduce pressure on the back of the head and strengthen neck muscles.

  • Alternate the direction in which the baby’s head faces in the crib each night to promote even development of the skull.

  • Avoid excessive time in car seats, swings, and bouncers, and provide plenty of opportunities for the baby to move and change positions throughout the day.

  • Consult with a pediatrician if you notice persistent flattening of the head, as they may recommend physical therapy or a special helmet to help reshape the skull.

Emotional Support for Parents

Dealing with positional plagiocephaly can be stressful for parents, especially when they feel like they could have done something to prevent it. It’s important to remember that this condition is common and often out of parents’ control. Seeking support from other parents, online communities, or healthcare professionals can help alleviate feelings of guilt or anxiety.


While positional plagiocephaly can be concerning for parents, there are steps that can be taken to prevent and manage it. By promoting tummy time, changing the baby’s sleeping position, and consulting with a pediatrician if needed, parents can help ensure their baby’s head develops properly. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and there is support available to help you navigate the challenges of parenthood.

Frequently Asked Questions

What causes positional plagiocephaly?

Positional plagiocephaly is often caused by prolonged pressure on one spot of the baby’s head, leading to flattening or misshaping of the skull. Factors such as spending too much time lying on the back can contribute to this condition.

Can positional plagiocephaly be reversed?

In many cases, positional plagiocephaly can improve on its own as the baby grows and becomes more active. However, severe cases may require interventions such as physical therapy or a special helmet to help reshape the skull.

How can parents prevent positional plagiocephaly?

Parents can help prevent positional plagiocephaly by encouraging supervised tummy time, alternating the baby’s sleeping position, and avoiding excessive time in devices that promote prolonged pressure on the head, such as car seats and swings.