Updated: May 11

baby misshapen head plagiocephaly flat head infant

Plagiocephaly is a flattening or asymmetry of the infant’s head.

It can be caused by the fetal position in utero or even during the birthing process. However, there has been a staggering increase in number of reported children affected by plagiocephaly since the “Back to Sleep” campaign, brought in the year 1992, to reduce the incidence of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

In one study, the incidence of reported plagiocephaly increased sixfold, coincidentally after the “Back to Sleep” campaign (1.). Hence, children were given less tummy time and were placed on their backs to sleep throughout the night, some resulting in a plagiocephalic head shape.

Plagiocephaly can appear as:

  • Misshapen/flat head

  • Facial asymmetries

  • One side of face may be more prominent

  • Ear on one side may be pushed forward

Many studies have shown that plagiocephaly can have dramatic consequences later on in a child’s development:

  • Delays in early milestones (2.) e.g. delayed crawling, delayed walking etc.

  • Delayed auditory response (3.)

  • Increased incidence of ear infections (4.)

  • Neurodevelopment delays (5.)(6.) e.g. language disorders, learning disabilities etc.

  • Visual field problems (7.)

  • Torticollis (2.)(8.)

Plagiocephaly may also affect a baby's ability to latch and breastfeed, it may appear as fussiness on one side during breastfeeding but not the other. A baby may prefer rolling to only one side and have difficulty rolling to the other. Chiropractic care can help infants with plagiocephaly through cranial work, sutural work, low-force adjustments, in addition to home care and exercises prescribed by Dr Melissa.

plagiocephaly misshapen head flat head baby
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1. Kane AA, Mitchell LE, Craven KP, et al. Observations on a recent increase in plagiocephaly without synostosis. Pediatrics 1996; 97:877–885.

2. Öhman A, Nilsson S. Are infants with torticollis at risk of a delay in early motor milestones compared with a control group of healthy infants?  Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 2009; pp.545-551.

3. Balan P, Kushnerenko E. Auditory ERPs reveal brain dysfunction in infants with plagiocephaly. Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, 2002 Jul; 13(4), pp.520-525

4. Purzycki A, Thompson E. Incidence of otitis media in children with deformational plagiocephaly. Journal of Craniofacial Surgery, 2009 Sep; 20(5), pp.1407-1411.

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