Doctors see more infants' skulls flattening

Proper positioning reduces risk of plagiocephaly

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KENDALL, Fla. - When Doralis Garcia's son Matthew was just a few months old, she noticed something strange happening to his head.

"I asked the pediatrician and he said I was right, and that he was going to send me to a specialist," she said.

Matthew was developing a condition called positional plagiocelphaly.

"We do see a significant amount of plagiocephaly, and what that means is, when a child's head becomes flat," said Dr. Chad Perlyn with Miami Children's Hospital.

Perlyn said cases of plagiocephaly have been increasing in recent years for a couple of reasons.

"We have more parents following the recommendation from pediatricians that babies sleep on their backs, which is a good thing because it's reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDs," said Perlyn. "At the same time, sleeping on the back for several hours can cause the soft skull to flatten."

Perlyn said many babies also spend more of their waking hours in devices like car seats, swings and strollers.

"So now, they're sitting in these containment devices and that's increasing the risk of plagiocephaly," he said.

The condition doesn't just affect the skull.

"The ear position can shift and even things like the jaw or orbital shape can shift," said Perlyn.

The solution involves wearing a special helmet that helps reshape the skull.

"It doesn't hurt the child, it doesn't put any pressure on the skull, it just acts as a guide or a mold to help the head get back into correct anatomical position," said Perlyn.

After wearing the helmet for three months, little Matthew's flat spot had been corrected.

"They said they were glad I caught it on time because the smaller they are, the quicker it can get fixed," said Garcia.

The device must be worn 23-hours a day, typically for a minimum of three months.

Along with giving your baby lots of tummy time and cuddle time, you can avoid plagiocephaly by changing your baby's position in the crib as well as changing the position of the crib in the room. Doing both will encourage your baby to move it's head in different directions.

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