Flat spots on your baby’s head – why they are more than just a cosmetic issue.


Worried about your baby’s flat head? 

It is a common misconception that a baby flat head is merely a cosmetic issue. That they will grow up with a wonky shaped head, but that aside, they grow up perfectly normal. This is such a heartbreaking misconception for me, since I know this is far from the truth, and all I desire is for children to be giving their BEST start to life. 
Positional plagiocephaly, aka flat head syndrome, has become more prevalent since the SIDS Back to Sleep campaign. This is because babies began spending more time on their backs, leading to a flat spot on the heads of those who had a positional preference to turn their head one way. A baby’s skull bones are softer than adults, and have little joints between them called sutures – both of which allow a less traumatic passage through the birth canal, as well as the ability for the head to grow until it reaches adult size. 
In my experience, a baby who prefers to turn only one way does not do so out of pure preference, and typically there is an underlying reason for their positional preference. Osteopathic research has now demonstrated that babies may experience spinal musculoskeletal trauma during the birth process – so I wonder how many babies with flat heads have some kind muscle or joint of pain? 
baby chiropractor flat head 

What happens to a baby with a flat head? 

There is mounting research associating flat heads during infancy with a myriad of developmental and brain changes. I have accumulated all the research for you, and put it into one package. (Please, if you’re that way inclined, ask me for the list of articles I have referenced – I will happily oblige!)

Let’s start with the short term effects:

  • At 8.5 months of age (average) –
    • 20% had some mild psychomotor delays
    • 13% had some significant psychomotor delays
    • The average for delays in the general population is 7%
  • Before any intervention, infants with deformational plagiocephaly show significant delays in both mental and psychomotor development
  • Changes in muscle tone – increased or decreased at an average 8 months of age
  • Changes in motor function noticed at 6 months of age


Therefore brain development may be altered very early on with flat heads!

What about long term studies? 

  • Increased risk of auditory processing disorders in almost 100% 
  • Increased risk of visual processing disorders – 35%

  • Increased risk of requiring learning assistance  

  • Increased requirement of a special class, eg. Reading recovery

  • At 5 years of age, 33% had received learning assistance

    • 14% were in a special class 

  • 39.7% with persistent deformational plagiocephaly had received special help in primary school

    • Only 7.7% of siblings required similar help

  • Delayed language acquisition at 3.5 years of age in 51% 

  • Continued developmental issues during preschool found in children who had delays in infancy and plagiocephaly


baby flat head


One study has compared a group of infants (4 months of age and older) with neck dysfunction, and those with no neck problem. They assessed the children using the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ) and found the following:

  • Neck dysfunction – 41% had one or more delays 
  • No neck problem – 29% had one or more delays 
  • The greatest number of delays was seen in:
    • Gross motor domain (18%)
    • Problem solving (17%)
    • Personal–social (15%)
    • Fine motor (14%)
    • Communication (7%)

So…  What do I do for my baby’s flat head?

Make an appointment with your baby chiropractor to have both the head and the neck (and spine) assessed – including:baby chiropractor melbourne

  • A complete birth and medical history
  • A head measurement
  • A complete neurological and reflex examination to ensure there is nothing else underlying and causing the flat head 
  • A complete spinal assessment – including hips (did you know that hip dysplasia is sometimes associated with flat heads?)
  • If you would prefer, have your baby checked by your maternal and child health nurse, or your paediatrician (but make sure they are aware of the research!)

Since the research indicates that babies with neck issues have increased rates of developmental delays as compared with babies without neck issues, wouldn’t it make sense to have your baby’s neck checked?


Chiropractic Treatment for Baby Flat Heads

Chiropractic is has an exemplary safety record, is gentle and effective for babies.

Please be aware that recommendations to turn your baby’s head in the opposite direction to the flat spot will not remove any underlying neck issue or birth trauma, if present. Imagine if you had a sore neck – would you want to turn into the painful position? 

The sooner any neck issue is found and corrected, the better chance your baby’s head has of returning to a rounder shape, because the flatness reduces as their head grows. 

Be aware of the research – if anyone tells you that it is purely cosmetic, you will know otherwise. There is additional research being done every day on this area! 


Want to know more?

You can contact me via my contact page, or check out where I’m working by heading to the consultations page. Plus you can follow me on social media, links at the bottom of the page. 


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