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Does my baby need a helmet?

Updated: Jan 22, 2021

The best way to determine if your baby needs a helmet is to have a formal evaluation completed by one of our cranial experts. Our evaluations are complimentary and serve to establish a baseline of your baby's head measurements. Clinical observations, measurements, and reviewing your loved one's medical history are how we determine if a helmet is needed. Read more below on what to look for and the head shapes benefit from cranial remolding.

Plagiocephaly, Brachycephaly, and Scaphocephaly

There are 3 key, defined head shapes that are considered "deformational". If you are concerned that your baby's head falls into one of these categories you are in the right place. Cranial remolding using a helmet is indicated for treating Plagiocephaly, Brachycephaly, and Scaphocephaly. (see images below for general guide)

Plagiocephaly "play-gee-oh-seph-aly"

This shape is often reported with baby having a "side preference." The baby prefers to lay on one side of their head causing a "flat spot." As this flat spot becomes more noticeable you will also start to observe other characteristics of plagiocephaly including a prominent "bulging" over other areas of the head. Plagiocephaly is characterized by an asymmetry that disrupts the natural alignment of craniofacial bones.

Parents of babies with Plagiocephaly typically report:

Even if I try to rotate my baby's head, he will only look one direction

My baby always lays on her left/right

See, my baby tilts his head to one side

I am concerned about this "knot" or "bulge" on one side of her head

One of my baby's ears seems bigger or higher than the other

Does my baby have an eye that seems to be more closed than the other?

Brachycephaly "brakey-seph-aly"

Babies who love sleeping long stretches flat on their backs are at risk for Brachycephaly. Meaning "broad head," Brachycephaly is characterized by a central flattening in the back, center. This central flattening can cause the posterior fontanelle or back "soft spot" to be more visible in some babies. Tissue is displaced upwards and outwards, causing the head to appear "high" and "wide". Cranial tissue over your baby's ears can be cause for concern. Measurements should be taken to determine if your baby requires a helmet to redirect their growth to the back of their head.

Parents of babies with Brachycephaly typically report:

My baby sleeps flat on his back

Do you see these knots on the side of her head?

Is there a "dent" in the back of my baby's head?

I can really see how high it is when his hair is wet

Her forehead seems to bulge out a little

Scaphocephaly "scaff-oh-seph-aly"

Scaphocephaly is a type of Dolichocephaly or elongating of the head. This shape can be a result of saggital craniosynostosis which is an underlying condition we screen for in the clinic. This shape can be treated with a helmet if the cause is positional. While there are other positional circumstances that result in a scaphocephalic head shape, it is most commonly seen in NICU graduates. NICU babies are frequently placed in a side-lying position. This position is thought to better promote digestion. Babies placed consistently on their sides show more head growth in the forwards and backwards direction. The sides of the head are inhibited from growing which creates an elongated, narrowed head shape.

Parents of babies with Scaphocephaly, typically report:

My baby has a ridge in the middle of his head

It seems as though my baby's ears stick out away from the head

The back of her head is pointy

My baby's head always falls to the side and he cannot lay flat on his back

Other Concerns

An infants skull is comprised of several bones that are not yet sutured at birth. This allows the baby to fit through the birthing canal. Through the first few months of life, the skull remains impressionable and early experiences can effect the natural progression of the skull hardening. The brain remains protected by the dura mater throughout this process but the surrounding cranial tissue can be affected in surprising ways. Most often, parents have a concern about a "bump" or "dent" that is related to plagiocephaly. These anomalies are successfully treated with a cranial remolding helmet.

There are underlying conditions, including craniosynostosis, that require the attention of a neurosurgeon. Our staff is highly trained to screen for these conditions throughout the treatment process and will help you get to a specialist if one is required. If you would like expert eyes on a concern you have, you are always welcome to come in for a free evaluation. We can help guide you on everything cranial; from repositioning techniques to recommending a neurosurgery team.

So, Does your baby need a helmet?

Maybe. Maybe not. There is actually a lot of education and skill that goes into answering that question. If you are at this page, it probably doesn't hurt to make an appointment for an evaluation. You should know that helmets are considered durable medical equipment. This means that your insurance isn't getting billed for any visits and the clinic is only ever reimbursed should your baby need a helmet. This means it likely costs you nothing to go in for some initial measurements, especially if your little one is nearing that 6 month mark. Be sure to check the cost for an evaluation with whichever clinic you attend. At Orthopedic Motion, consultations are always free.

© 2020 an Orthopedic Motion Inc. company

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