The first couple of days with a helmet can be a little challenging. Let's face it, the helmet is a completely foreign (stinky) object to most families. It is one more thing to get used to and of course your baby must get used to it too. How your baby reacts to the helmet depends on the baby's personality, age, and severity of head shape. The first few days are hands down the hardest, but is true that we often hear parents report, “I think it was harder for me than it was for her.”
Our wear and care protocol includes a schedule for the first three days. Your little one will increase wear time over the first three days. Babies get used the having the helmet on pretty quickly, but their skin needs time to adjust to being fully covered.
Your Baby’s Skin and the Helmet
You can expect your baby to sweat, a lot. Dress your baby lightly and avoid excessive heat. If you are concerned about dehydration, you can speak with your pediatrician. As long as your baby continues to have wet diapers and a flat soft spot, your baby is not dehydrated. If you are concerned about a fever you can take an axillary or rectal temperature. Sweat should decrease over the first few days. You can use a little corn starch in the helmet to help absorb sweat (most baby powder is now corn starch based and not talcum powder).
It is key to keep an eye on your baby’s skin and to look for redness after you remove the helmet. The helmet has to make enough contact with the head to be effective and stay in place which can create redness. We want to hear from you if your baby has redness that is not going away after 30-45 minutes. Particularly if there are concentrated, red circles. If your baby has a lot of hair, be sure to look under those locks over the ears and the back of the head.
Keep in mind as your baby’s head improves, the fit improves.
Typically redness goes away once the helmet is removed for a bit. If the redness is lasting close to an hour, try putting diaper cream or vaseline on the skin to protect these areas. Lasting redness can be the result of your baby growing, too much/little contact with one part of the helmet, the head is starting to correct or skin irritation. Regardless of the reason, lasting redness is cause to alert your cranial specialist. The helmet needs to be adjusted and your baby could develop a sore if she continues to wear it without an adjustment. For more information on cleaning the helmet and redness, click here.
Taking the Helmet On and Off
While your baby quickly gets used to wearing the helmet, they will always squirm and fuss when taking it on and off. It is similar to dressing your baby; they don’t put their arms through the arm hole on their own. At the first week follow up, families tend to ask about easier ways to take the helmet on and off. My advice is always the same:
"Have your baby facing to the side by having someone hold them, or sandwiching them between your knees. Take the helmet and slide your thumbs in to the side opening. Pull the helmet open as wide as you can, you will not break the helmet. Take the helmet up and over the baby’s head, spot for the ear hole on the other side. Take your non dominant hand and hold the helmet in place on top of the head. With your dominant hand, fasten the strap. Practice on a doll until you feel more comfortable handling the helmet."
You should always fasten the helmet to the line indicated by the provider. Over the first few days/weeks, the helmet may start to feel loose or even difficult to close. It is typical for the fit to change as your baby’s head changes. Always contact your provider if you have concerns with the fit.
My Baby’s Response
As mentioned above, all babies are a little different in how they react to the helmet. It has been my experience that babies with good head control, ages 4-6 months don’t miss a beat when we put a helmet on. They may touch it, reach for it and play with the strap, but the majority of the time they go on with their day as if nothing is different. We occasionally hear that the baby seemed a little sleepier or subdued in the helmet for the first few days, but as they get used to it and sweat less these babies are reported to perk back up again.
The older babies tend to be a little more opinionated and grabby. They can fuss or try to pull the helmet off but once they realize it’s not going anywhere, they too accept the helmet. Medically fragile, severely asymmetrical and younger baby’s can require a little more observation and sometimes even an extended break in schedule. If your little one is having difficulty with consistently wearing the helmet let us know as soon as possible. It is easier to adjust the helmet sooner than to wait too long as they may outgrow the helmet.
Yes, your baby can fuss when putting it on, pull at their ears, touch the strap, but they should never be unconsolably crying or in pain. You know your baby best. If your baby suddenly stops liking their helmet when they were fine in it before, this can be a sign they need an adjustment. Let us know so we can help. This is meant to be a pain free, straightforward process for you and your family.
Cleaning the Helmet
Frequently, parents will report that they did not prepare for the helmet to stink as much as it does. The best way to beat the stink is to keep the helmet clean. This means fully wiping it out with sudsy water and drying it daily. We recommend using baby shampoo on a wash cloth with some warm water. Allow time for the helmet to air dry before putting it back on your baby. Do not use baby wipes or Clorox wipes in the helmet. If you do spill something in the helmet that you can't get out please let your provider know and there are ways we can help remove residue.
While some helmets have a little more stench than others, I have heard the following can help improve the smell: Tea Tree Oil Shampoo, Baby Powder, Corn Starch, Tide Free & Gentle Laundry Detergent
Sleeping In the Helmet
My baby sleeps in it? Yes.
Often people are surprised to learn that their little one is expected to sleep in the helmet. Sleeping in the helmet is key to correction. Your baby is often growing while sleeping and we want them to grow into the shape inside the helmet. This is how the head is able to remold. The helmet also prevents your baby from laying on the flat spot and causing continued deformation.
Families are often surprised to find their baby sleeps well in their helmet. It sometimes becomes a transitional object that babies associate with bedtime. If your baby is struggling it is usually because they are too hot or the helmet is wiggling. Dress your baby lightly without socks. Heat escapes your baby through their head and feet so with their head now covered, it is important to leave their feet free of coverings. If the helmet seems to be shifting, contact your provider as it may need an adjustment. Never tighten the helmet up completely to keep it in place, continue to use the guidelines provided.
Life With the Helmet
Otherwise you can resume life as usual with your helmet in tow. The first few days can be challenging, but keep in mind as your baby’s head improves, the fit of the helmet improves. Their head starts improving as soon as the helmet is on. Stick with the plan and reach out to your provider for any questions or support.
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