Simone Ross has practiced osteopathy for 15 years and runs Kane and Ross clinics in Harley Street and Courtfield Gardens, Kensington. Simone has previously worked in central London hospitals seeing post-natal mothers and newborns and teaches other osteopaths, midwives and doctors about osteopathic treatment. Simone specialises in treating babies and children with conditions such as colic, plagiocephaly, unsettled babies and lactation issues. She also has four children of her own.
What is flat head syndrome?
Seeing a baby with a flattened or misshapen head is becoming a common occurrence in my osteopathic clinic. Most parents do not realise the long-term health implications this issue may cause if left untreated.
Flat head syndrome, called plagiocephaly, is usually caused in the womb or during delivery; the position of the baby in the womb may lead to tight muscles in the neck and an “immobile” joint or joints in the neck can occur during a delivery where a baby needs to be turned.
A baby with a joint or muscular restriction that lies on its back will be unable to stretch out, causing the baby to lie in one position leading to the development of a flat head. The most common babies to experience plagiocephaly are larger babies who are swaddled.
Does your baby have flat head syndrome?
- Look at your baby from the back; is its head symmetrical?
- Look from the front and draw an imaginary line down the middle of the face; is the baby’s face symmetrical?
- When your baby is asleep do they always turn their face the same way?
- Is your baby feeding off both breasts equally or do they have a preference to one side?
When to see an osteopath?
Flat head syndrome can be prevented if diagnosed and treated early enough. From my experience working in Central London hospitals, an osteopath examining a newborn can identify and release restricted joints and tight muscles, preventing the problem arising in the first place. Midwives and paediatricians would identify a problem, usually due to the baby’s in ability to latch to the breast, and I would find restrictions in the neck or jaw of the infant, preventing proper feeding.
Of course, not all babies are seen by an osteopath a birth, but are brought to the clinic for treatment. The best time to see an osteopath is before the baby is 2 weeks old, especially following an assisted delivery. If you recognise that your baby may have a problem, book an assessment immediately; the sooner it is identified, the less treatment they will need.
Babies brought in at around 3-4 months old often have already developed plagiocephaly. The infants head may only rotate to one side, easy position has usually changed and if severe, there may be some asymmetry to the face. Osteopathy can still help a lot at this stage but treatment is longer and more difficult.
What will an osteopath do?
The main aim is to get full range of movement in the neck by stretching the muscles and fascia and articulating joints. Cranial techniques are applied to the head to reduce the flatness and encourage movement. Parents and carers are given exercises and postural advice to prevent the stiffness re-occurring.
Initial treatment is usually intensive, approximately twice per week for two weeks. Once full range of movement is achieved treatment becomes weekly, possibly for a few months. Your baby will be assessed until occipital protuberances developed and checked on a periodic basis until your child’s first birthday.
What can you do?
- When your baby is awake and with an adult they should turned regularly from side to side and onto their tummies.
- A specialised soft pillow can often prevent this flatness developing or worsening. It can be placed in the cot, pram, car seat or then the baby is on a hard surface such as a changing table or floor.
- Stimulate your baby from the side it does not want to turn by placing their toys/lights to that side.
- Please educate as many parents as possible, as this is a completely preventable problem.
- Do not do exercises until the baby has been assessed.
Kane & Ross Clinics
39 Harley Street, London, W1G 8QH
73 Courtfield Gardens, London, SW5 0NL
020 7436 9007