My Helmet Baby (Squared)

Our family's journey with plagiocephaly

Helmet Decorations… Plus, Plagiocephaly on The Doctors

on March 19, 2012

I have to share pictures of Emily in her newly decorated helmet.  I posted a picture of the front on my last blog entry, but the back is even more awesome.

This was the first weekend that Emily had her helmet, and she got some GOOD attention, I am happy to say.  (Much better than the first comment I got about Samantha’s helmet – “Is it something you did?”)  Two random people actually asked how she was doing and complimented her decorations.  One women said “that might be the coolest helmet I’ve ever seen!”  She said that her daughter had a flat head in the back, but it was perfectly symmetric, so they didn’t get a helmet.  She said it is still flat, but her hair covers it.  Not sure what we would have done had my girls’ heads been symmetric.  The other woman not only asked how Emily was doing, but also asked how I was doing with it!!  It was very sweet of her.  Apparently, her coworker’s daughter had had a helmet and had been very distraught, until her baby ended up doing just fine!

My other topic of conversation:

It was brought to my attention that the show The Doctors had a segment on infant flat head.  Here is the segment.  (I think it is an older segment, but I can’t typically watch daytime TV, so I didn’t know about it until it replayed on Friday.)

The Doctors – Flat Head Babies

I usually have a lot of respect for the doctors on this show, but I feel like they took too casual of an approach to this topic.  First off, the mom who was featured had a baby who was 8 months old.  This issue doesn’t start at 8 months old.  It starts when babies are younger than 6 months old, often when they are newborns.  In some infants, it isn’t as easy as just having your baby face the other direction when they are laying down.  If your baby consistently turns their head to one side, even if you try to turn it the other way, he/she may have torticollis, a shortening of the muscles in the neck.  This may not go away without exercises and stretching, and once a child spends too much time on one side of their head, the head can start to flatten.  Torticollis was not mentioned at all in the segment.

I think it good that they mentioned that tummy time is important, as well as not allowing babies to spend too much time in reclined seats (car seats, swings, bouncy seats) but, sometimes, that is not enough.  In addition, an 8-month-old baby is already moving around in most cases, so repositioning (i.e. turning their heads) is not necessary anymore.  However, at 8 months old, if your child has a misshapen head, it may not completely round out without some help.  The ideal time to get a helmet is around 6 months old, because babies have growth spurts between 6 & 12 months of age.  During these growth spurts, if a baby is wearing a helmet, the head’s growth will be redirected into the spaces in the helmet to “fill it in”.  The inside of the helmet is shaped so that there is room for the baby’s head to round out.  If your baby’s head is misshapen, and you wait to get a helmet until after 12 months, you may not get much correction from a helmet, and your child may just have to live with a flat or asymmetric head for the rest of his/her life.  The Doctors made it sound like moms and dads who get helmets for their children are just impatient.  I don’t really think that is a fair statement, knowing what my children’s heads looked like at different points in time.   If we hadn’t put a helmet on Samantha’s head, I believe her head would have been asymmetric for her whole life.

Prior to getting helmets, a parent can try to determine if their child’s head will round out by aggressive repositioning.  If there is some correction, a parent could choose to forego a helmet.  With Samantha, we did aggressive repositioning (kept her off of her head ALL the time) for 2 months prior to getting a helmet (from 4-6 months old).  We saw some improvement, but not enough to be confident that her head would round out.  When she got the helmet, her assymetry was 16 mm, which means that one diagonal of her head was 1.6 cm longer than the other diagonal.  Emily’s head assymetry was only about 1/2 cm at her most recent measurement (9mm at her first measurement), but I started repositioning her and doing exercises as early as 1 month old.  I think Emily’s head could have rounded out eventually since we started repositioning so early, but I really did not want to take the chance after Samantha’s experience.  The Doctors were misinformed when they said that a child’s head would correct with a helmet in 12 months.  Some helmets are only worn for a few months.  STARbands are typically worn from 4-6 months.  I think that loosely saying 12 months could make the process even more scary for a parent!

I think it was good that The Doctors covered this topic and mentioned that they believe prevention of SIDS is more important than your child’s head shape.  I just wish that they would not have taken such a casual approach and had been more educated on the topic.  I think that pediatricians should be talking to new parents within the first month after birth to encourage them to watch for a tendency to turn to one side and flattening of the head.  It may not make a perfect head, but maybe it wouldn’t be as severe otherwise.  Many parents who have gone through this believe that they were not as informed as they should have been at the beginning.

Comments, anyone?

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5 responses to “Helmet Decorations… Plus, Plagiocephaly on The Doctors

  1. Lynn S says:

    Your daughter looks so cute! My son is getting his Doc Band tomorrow and I am excited to help him with his plagio and brachy but nervous! I totally agree about not being informed about this ahead of time. I even pointed out the flattening and preferring to look to the right at every pediatrician appointment and was never told about torticollis or plagiocephaly. Finally at 3 months they mentioned it and referred me to cranial tech. I was pretty annoyed that I wasn’t told about it sooner but repositioning doesn’t work with him anyway because of the tort – he sleeps with his head to the right no matter how many times I go in and move it and he wiggles off of blankets if I try to roll them up behind him!

    • myhelmetbabysquared says:

      When we went to Children’s Hospital, the Nurse Practitioner recommended pinning or velcroing a rolled blanket to her sleeper, but my daughter wouldn’t sleep that way. I tried to attach it to her sleep sack, but she didn’t like it. When my daughter was smaller, I put a rolled blanket under a sheet saver so that it wouldn’t move and that kept her off of her head sometimes, but that was when she was waking more at night, so I could fix it frequently. Repositioning is really hard on everyone if you take it seriously. The helmet will actually be easier except for cleaning it and going to appointments so frequently. Is he going to be getting physical therapy?

  2. Thanks for creating this blog! My daugher just graduated from her Starband last month and when she was first diagnosed I felt a tremendous sense of guilt. I had so much fun decorating her helmet, that I decided to start my own company called THE HAPPY HELMET to not only offer fun and decorative decals, but also to support other families going through this process.
    This is definitely a growing issue and until we get new parents educated out there, I think it will continue. Of the 15 moms in my “new mom’s circle”, 4 of the babies have to get helmets! Best of luck to you all going through this and I hope you like my FB page and website at: http://www.thehappyhelmet.com

    Cheers!

  3. myhelmetbabysquared says:

    Awesome! Your decorations are really cute! I will link to your web site on the side of my blog. Congrats on graduating from the helmet!!

    How crazy is it that 4 out of 15 babies in your circle had to get helmets? I have known 4 other babies who have had helmets since my first daughter had one, and I know of other people who think their kids should have had one.

  4. Justyna Basso, RPh says:

    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/114/4/970.full

    My daughter has torticollis and a “severe case” of brachycephaly, and they are about to put her in a helmet. When I read that The Doctors show recommended waiting it out, I wondered how they came to that conclusion. I found this article in the journal of pediatrics. It is probably their source too. But she’s still getting the helmet. Like you said, they didn’t mention torticollis and go into detail about other complications.

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