The story is becoming more and more common. Parents welcome their new baby into the world and their healthy happy infant quickly starts to develop some flattening at the back of their head. The new parents try everything from repositioning their baby to tummy time and the flat spot won’t go away. For many, a conversation with their child’s doctor will result in talk of helmet therapy or cranial remolding.
This leaves many parents wondering why their newborn baby needs to wear a helmet so young. For many parents the thought of their baby spending months wearing a helmet 23 hours a day when they are just a few months old very overwhelming. So, why does helmet therapy need to begin so early?
Why would a newborn need to start helmet treatment?
Many parents are nervous about starting helmet therapy in those first few months, which is totally understandable. Your otherwise perfect, healthy baby now needs to wear a helmet 23 hours a day. It almost doesn’t make sense.
The reality is that the same reason your baby’s head so easily flattened is the same reason earlier treatment is advantageous. When a baby is born, their skull is pliable so that they can safely pass through the birth canal.
So, after birth, when they spend the bulk of their time on their back, flattening can occur. As a baby lies on her back, that constant pressure on one spot of the skull can lead to the flat area. This also means that if a baby can begin their helmet therapy early, while the skull is still pliable, the outcomes will be better.
Earlier treatment means shorter treatment time
Babies who begin their reshaping process earlier, generally spend less time wearing their helmet. There are exceptions to this, but for most babies, if they begin their helmet therapy at 3 months old they will need, on average, just two months of treatment. Whereas babies who begin their treatment at seven months of age, they will require an average of 4 months in their helmet.
Earlier treatment leads to better outcomes
Another reason that helmet therapy begins at such a young age is that earlier treatment of baby flat head leads to better outcomes. Research has shown that when a baby begins cranial remolding prior to 24 weeks experience the most successful reshaping in the shortest amount of time. Babies between 24 and 36 weeks experienced slightly reduced success rates with babies older than 36 weeks experiencing the least successful reshaping.
While cranial reshaping is possible until babies reach 18 months, earlier treatment is more effective and takes less time. This depends on a number of factors, most importantly adhering to wearing the helmet 23 hours a day. In the majority of cases, the earlier you can treat plagiocephaly the better the outcomes baby will experience.