When You’re Kid Has Plagiocephaly

My kid has a flat head.  And has for months now.

At his 2 month well check, his doctor showed little concern.  Yep, it was flat, but so are a lot of kids’ these days because protocol is for them to sleep on their backs.

He was getting stronger and stronger, so we thought the time he spent sitting up and/or on his tummy would help remedy the problem.  But, it didn’t.  By 3 months, even his daycare was pulling us aside to make sure it was on our radar.  I was relieved to be able to tell them that, yes, it was – but also worried that it was getting so bad they felt the need to seek us out to talk about it.

At his 4 month well check, his pediatrician acknowledged that it was quite flat.  It was flatter than most kids, but it wasn’t the worst she had seen.  She wasn’t overly concerned, but thought it was worth us seeing a specialist to get some measurements done.  So, we did.

We’ve now learned that Eddie has a severe case of plagiocephaly – that’s a fancy way of saying he has a flat head.  And let me be clear – it isn’t a flat spot – his head literally drops off in the back.  Also – note that it looks much more severe in this photo than it does in “real life” – I think his hair standing up in the back makes it look like it slopes up on the top of his head from front to back.  It’s flat, yes, but not pointy!

eddie - fh

The specialist (whom Eddie hated, by the way) told us that it’s quite severe.  He is 6 standard deviations away from what is considered “normal.”  His head is significantly wider across the front (ear to ear) compared to the front to back measurements.  Hearing it was severe made me emotional – but she had some really reassuring information for us.

First of all – he won’t be put in a helmet at this point.  For cases of plagiocephaly, this specialist does not put children in a helmet before 4 months and rarely does right at 4 months.  It is having zero impact on Eddie’s cognitive development, therefore she is taking a conservative approach.  In two months, we will go back to have more measurements done to see if things are getting better or if they are staying the same.

The specialist also told us that in about 50% of her patients, things significantly improve to the point that they never need a helmet.  He’s doing a lot of development right now – learning to roll over, sit up, etc.  Learning all of those things mean that he spends less time on his back – which is what he needs to do in order for his skull to develop properly.  She also told me that this generation sees a lot more of this condition than generations past because of the protocol for babies to sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Her telling us those things made me feel better.  I’m hopeful that we have the opportunity to remedy it without medical intervention.  And it’s reassuring to hear that it’s more common than I may think it is.  I feel like every person I’ve spoken with knows of at least one child that has been put into a helmet – maybe not a personal acquaintance, but they know of someone.  I’m obviously not happy that others experience this, but it makes me feel like I’m less of a “bad” parent for letting my baby’s head get flat.

I feel like his size has also contributed to a certain degree – being bigger and heavier means needing more strength to roll/sit up and develop balance.  It’s also a lot of weight on the back of his little head!  The specialist told us that even if/when his head rounds out, it will stay a little wider than “average.”  And that’s okay – just gives him a little extra character!

We have a plan in place with the help of daycare to help remedy the flatness without medical intervention.  I’m optimistic that we can return in June to find that everything is resolving itself.  Time will tell.

The reason I’m sharing is because all of this has been new/unknown/a little scary for me.  I’ve felt a lot of guilt and uncertainty – and (perceived?) judgement from others because of how my child looks.  I’m that mom that is offering an explanation before the question is asked because I feel like they’re wondering.  I hate that I do this.  It’s not really their business, right? But, I hate the idea that they may draw inaccurate conclusions.  But, on the other hand I’d equally hate it if they had the audacity to ask.  Sigh.  There’s no winning with me.

Ultimately, Eddie’s plagiocephaly is purely cosmetic.  It’s possible that, for that reason, insurance wouldn’t cover treatment (I have yet to check).  But, honestly, who cares right?  He’s healthy as a horse.  He’s the happiest little boy.  And he’s meeting his milestones like a champ.  If our kid ends up in a helmet for a few months, so be it.  There are much worst things, this I know.

That being said, we will be making a concerted effort to avoid the helmet.  So, if you need Eddie over the next couple months, you’ll find him like this:

eddie go pod

Or this:

eddie - pillows

Here’s to Eddie growing a round head!

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