In 1992, 'they' discovered that putting baby to sleep on his/her back dramatically reduced the chances of SIDS (Cot Death).
In 2007, 'they' discovered that the number of babies being diagnosed with Positional Plagiocephaly or Brachycephaly are equal to the number of lives saved - a 70% increase in skull deformities through positioning in line with a 70% decrease in SIDS.
In a Nutshell...
Plagiocephaly is most commonly a deformity whereby the skull, when looking from above, has a distinct 'parallellogram' shape, and can lead to asymmetry of the facial features, ears etc. This is more common when a baby lays with its head on a favoured side.
Brachycephaly is a form of plagiocephaly where the head looks pretty much normal from the front, but when viewed from above or from the side, looks distinctly flat across the back. This is typical in babies who lay with their face pointing towards the ceiling.
There are other reasons for these conditions - prematurity, birth trauma, heavy birth weight, multiple births, lack of amniotic fluid and chromosomal abnormalities such as Downs Syndrome can all cause Plagiocephaly. In some cases, the bones in a baby's skull close too early, before the head has been given a chance to 'round out'. The majority of cases, however, are caused by the soft skull being moulded by the baby being left in one position for too long, such as when they sleep, are in a bouncy chair, or car seat.
The NHS are currently (rather half-heartedly, to be honest) promoting (i.e. giving you a photocopied sheet) 'Back to sleep, tummy to play'. OK, YOU try putting your newborn down its belly for more than 3 seconds. Do they like it? Do they hell. Do they find some milk to regurgitate spectacularly across the entire room, you and themselves; then cry themselves into an exhausted stupor? You bet they do.
Fin appears to have Positional Brachycephaly. Yes, it could be loads worse, of course it could. But it does still come as a bit of a shock when you notice that your 8 week old baby's head is as flat as an ironing board at the back.
I first noticed it 8 weeks ago, and mentioned it to the Health Visitor who did his health check. She told me I was imagining it. However, over the past few weeks it has got noticeably worse.
Looking into it, many parents go down the whole route of cranio-osteopathy, which essentially means paying a private company a fair few thousand pounds to fit a helmet to your sprog which - in theory - restricts the growth in some areas, and 'pushes' it into those places where the skull needs to even out. There are many success stories, but just as many tales of parents who have seen little, or no, difference - apart from in the wallet - regardless of how young their babies were when they started the treatment.
What I CANNOT find, however, is any information online about success stories using JUST repositioning. Repositioning should be used from birth as a preventative measure, but a straw poll of some friends of mine indicated that I am not alone in not having done it quite as often as I should have. Indeed, some people swear they employed repo from the word go, and their children still ended up with flat heads.
Data on children who have seen a marked improvement through repositioning AFTER diagnosis is like rocking horse poo, to be honest.
I have seen ONE, just ONE report that indicated that - with both groups (one using helmets, one using repositioning), the differences in end results were a lot closer than the helmet companies would have you believe.
We sure as hell can't afford the helmet, let alone the consultations and the visits to the consultants, who are nowhere near us; so we are trying the repositioning. The NHS do not usually fund helmet therapy, on the grounds that plagio/brachy are both considered purely cosmetic issues.
What we are doing
The pram is banned, except in extreme circumstances. It's the Baby Bjorn baby carrier for my wee man; as the back of his head (the occident) is not in contact with a firm surface as it is in a pram.
Plenty of time OFF his head....tummy time he IS slowly getting used to; but also laying on his side; lots of cuddles, sitting on my lap or over my shoulder. Fortunately, he's just coming into his own now (15 weeks this Thursday), and so it won't be long before he will not be putting so much pressure on his head.
For sleeping, we have two 'gizmos'...a Love Nest, which is a safe pillow with a cut out that allows the flat bit of his head not to be in contact with a hard surface, so is great for the bouncy-chair, the cot and the change mat. I also have the Bebecal Wedge, which allows you to safely prop baby on his side to sleep (in 'safely' I mean not likely to roll onto his tummy). I'm a bit scared of that one - seems the UK batter the 'back to sleep' message far more than the rest of Europe; but I know that they have been used with pretty good results.
We are awaiting an appointment for the paediatric department of the hospital to take his measurements and assess the degree of brachycephaly, so it will be hard between now and then to really know whether we have made a difference. By the time we get seen, it might be too late to act. So it's very much a leap of faith, a stab in the dark.
But that has to be better than sitting back and doing nothing. Doesn't it?
A bit about me.....
- Bothwell, South Lanarkshire, United Kingdom
- Purveyor of fine soups and budget meals; creator of calm; killer of houseplants; failed gardener (but still insists on pursuing the art); champion whinger; partner to Richard and Mum to Ellis and Finlay. Very skilled at ironing, being the Tickle Monster, bringing up infant wind and colouring inside the lines.