Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Truth About Flat Heads

We've all read blogs about Chinese babies with the backs of their heads very flattened "from lying in their cribs all day long." Well, guess what? Japanese people have VERY flat heads, too, and after living there for several years, can say that babies are not left lying in their cribs all day long. You want to know something else? Ever since the "Back to Sleep" campaign started in the West, Western, yes, U.S. babies have very flat heads, too. Some are so flat that they have to wear a special helmet 22 out of 24 hours a day to round their heads back out. Not only are the backs flat, but there is something happening that I call the Flounder Effect because part of the Back to Sleep instructions include turning the baby's head to the side in case they spit up. So now the growing flat spot is not the back, but the area between the back and the ear that is flat. When this part flattens, the skull starts "spinning" and the opposite eye and ear start rotating around to the back and the other eye and ear to the front making an extremely asymmetrical head. I have seen extreme cases of this in two of my daycare babies. That's why there is so much emphasis now on Tummy Time.

Another thing that's adding to it is the amount of time babies spend in the infant carseats. From the car to the stroller to in the house, they are in these things for HOURS! In California daycares, infant seats, bouncy seats and jump-ups cannot be used so providers are using carseats instead. Some babies LIVE in their carseats. IMO, it's a crime. I always recommend that parents get the infant to toddler carseats because they stay in the car and parents are forced to take their baby out of them except when they are actually in the car.

So why do Japanese people in Japan have such flat heads? They sleep on hard tatami mats and not mattresses. Chinese beds are notoriously hard, too. We know that babies in SWIs that are in the hotter regions have wood planks and no mattresses.

Why do premature babies have long narrow heads? Again, the force of gravity and pressure on such soft skull bones. Preemies are not left in one position for very long, they are constantly turned and moved to promote even development, but it still happens.

The bottom line is that the babies have very soft skulls in order to be born and the final shape depends on the surface and position they rest in during their first weeks and months of life. A Chinese baby with a flat head has not necessarily been left too long alone in a crib. Some babies have been in foster care, others at the better SWI, like the ones sponsored by Half the Sky, and their heads may be as flat as a baby from the south, lying all day on a wood board in their crib.

After typing all of this, I found a great article about and it and some very good information and photos:

Plagiocephaly (flat head syndrome)
Cranial Technologies, Inc.
Flat heads among infants on the rise

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