3 Easy steps to prevent and treat flat head syndrome

What is flat head syndrome?

Flat head syndrome is also known as plagiocephaly. (“plagio-” means slanted or oblique and “-cephaly” means head) It is also known as positional or deformational plagiocephaly.

It is where the back or the side of the baby’s head becomes flat, asymmetrical or slanted. Sometimes, the baby’s head may also widen and the forehead bulges out in more severe cases. This is due to prolonged external pressure on one spot of the newborn’s soft and malleable skull.

It is more common today because of the Safe to Sleep® campaign recommending that babies sleep on their backs in the first few months of life to prevent SIDS (Sudden infant death syndrome).

Other causes of flat head syndrome include the following:

  • Medical problems or delayed development which makes it harder for babies to move and change positions
  • Stiff or tight neck muscles limiting neck movement (Torticollis)
  • Premature babies have softer skulls than full term babies and also move their heads less
  • Plagiocephaly can also occur in the womb such as overcrowding with twins or the mothers womb has an unusual shape

SIDS

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is the death of a healthy baby who is less than a year old during sleep (also known as crib death). The cause of death is unknown even after a complete investigation but is believed to be linked to defects in the baby’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep. It is also said to be a combination of physical and environmental factors in the baby’s sleeping environment such as in the crib, however research is still ongoing.

I highly recommend mothers to visit this website, Safe to Sleep® campaign to learn about SIDS and how to reduce the risks.

Should I be concerned about plagiocephaly?

Experts have dismissed plagiocephaly as an aesthetic issue because not everyone has a perfectly round shaped head. Also, it is also believed that asymmetrical heads should resolve itself over time as the baby grows.

Because flat head syndrome is a fairly new concern, there is limited studies on the matter. There is a 2010 study from Seattle Children’s hospital that has found an association between flat head syndrome and developmental delays, specifically motor, language and cognitive delays. This means there is no actual cause and effect between flat heads and child development but there is some link between the two.  In fact, the study suggests that a flat head may be a marker to identify children who are at risk for developmental delays, not that flat heads actually cause such delays. Unfortunately, there is no clear answer at this time and research is still ongoing…

Learn more about this study at Seattle Children’s Hospital website here.

Plagiocephaly may also be mistaken with craniocynostosis which is very different! Craniocyntosis  is where the baby’s skull fuses too early preventing normal development of brain growth. Babies with craniocyntosis will have uneven head shapes and this may also look like flat head syndrome. Check with your doctor to make sure!

Treatment & Management

Treatment depends on your health care provider, the age of your baby, the potential cause and so forth. It is very important that you seek professional medical help if you are concerned!

Your baby’s soft skull will start to fuse together and harden at about 9 to 18 months.

If the cause of your baby’s flat head syndrome is due to how they sleep, nap and lay, treatment may include positioning your baby’s head in different ways and avoiding pressure on the flat spot. It is also important to limit the time your baby spends in their bouncers, car seat or anything that applies pressure to certain parts of their head.

If your baby is diagnosed with stiff neck muscles (torticollis), your doctor may recommend special exercises or refer you to a physiotherapist.

If after 6 months, there is no improvement after trying to reposition your baby’s head first, your doctor may recommend helmet therapy. The plastic helmet, lined with foam fits snugly on the round parts of your baby’s head, and loosely on the flat spots to allow the flat spot to expand and even out as your baby grows. Generally they are worn for about 23 hours every day from about 1 to 6 months but it depends on your child’s age and case. Also, helmets can be very pricey!…

Learn more about plagiocephaly at Seattle children’s hospital website here.

How we fixed our baby’s flat spot with 3 easy steps

A few months ago my baby started to develop a flat spot on the back of her head and I freaked out! I always put her down on her back for naps and at night (especially after reading about SIDS!) And I will admit that I put her in her bouncer when I’m busy around the house, and I let her finish her nap when she falls asleep in the car seat on our way home. I realized that all of these habits had contributed to her flat head syndrome!

I had spoken to my doctor about her flat spot and she said that I shouldn’t be too concerned because naturally, no one has a perfectly round head. Also, preventing SIDS far outweighs the concerns that comes with flat head syndrome. I mentioned that I had done some research about flat head syndrome and developmental delays but she assured me that more research is needed to conclude this hypothesis. After much discussion, she provided me with simple, at home measures that I could take to gradually mold my baby’s head naturally without a pricey helmet.

Today she is 6 months old and her head is as “naturally” round as can be.

With 3 simple steps, this is how we did it.
 

1. Repositioning

The first tip to try is to reposition your baby when he or she sleeps and naps. There are a couple of ways to reposition your baby without having to put them on their sides or stomach. Remember to always place your baby on their backs and for peace of mind, turn on that baby camera when your not in the room!

First, use interesting objects or toys that catch your baby’s attention such as a baby mobile. Position the mobile where you want your baby to turn his or her head when they lay on their backs.

Check out our post about the Top 5 Reasons why You Need a Crib Mobile.

Another tip is to place your baby the other way in the crib. For example, if your baby’s feet is towards to door of the room, instead place your baby’s head towards the door.

Lastly, you can also try rearranging your nursery in the room. Moving the crib to a different area in the room can help to move your baby’s head in a different direction.

2. Lots of Supervised Tummy Time

Tummy time is vital, not only for relieving the pressure off of baby’s head but also to help strengthen neck and shoulder muscles for crawling and sitting up. It also improves your baby’s motor skills.

Babies should be on their tummies for at least 2-3 times per day for short periods of time right from birth. As they get older, allow them to spend more time on their tummies with each session. Try not to leave your baby unsupervised when on tummy time! Also, never leave your baby on tummy time (or in any position) on a high area such as the bed or changing table. They may roll over and fall!

Tips for tummy time:

Lay out a blanket on the floor

Place their favourite toy within baby’s reach and help them learn to play and interact with their surroundings

Tummy time after a nap and diaper change is ideal

Avoid tummy time right after a feed, they may spit it all up!

Never leave baby unattended during tummy time

3. Head Molding Pillows

Right now, I’m using Babymoov Lovenest baby head support pillow when my baby sleeps or naps. She sleeps through the night for about 9 hours straight which applies a lot of pressure on the back of her head!

It is so important to put your baby down on their backs but this is probably one of the reasons why my baby developed a flat spot on the back of her head. So I did some research and found the Babymoov Lovenest pillow on Amazon for $19.99 CDN and had to give it a try. This pillow significantly relieve the pressure off of my baby’s head and I truly recommend it. I use this pillow every time I lay her down. It comes in a variety of colors. The fabric is soft, breathable and machine washable. If you don’t believe me, check out their reviews on amazon!

With these 3 simple tips, we saw a difference in just one month! Today, our baby is 6 months old and we continue to implement these steps when she sleeps. Her flat spot has evened out and we are very happy with the results!

Does you baby have a flat spot? Share your story in the comments below! We love to hear from you.

Becoming a mom: The gist of it anyway…

I knew I always wanted to be a mother since I was young. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up baby sitting my siblings and baby cousins, or maybe it’s just in our DNA – our womanly nature to want to procreate and care for something so small, delicate and defenseless. It’s definitely a combination of nature and nurture for sure.

Since I was in high school even! – I wanted to have a big family because I came from a big family myself. I have three other siblings, my grandparents lived with us during the majority of my childhood and our cousins and extended family members would spend lots of time at our home. I just grew up with lots of loved ones all around me and I knew that I wanted my children to grow up in the same environment.

An image of myself as a new mother, our baby girl, Ayanna and her loving daddy. One of my favourite family photos.

Today, I am a mother of one 5 month old girl and trying to be someone special to my partner’s 11 year old son. I am very thankful.

My wonderful partner is a notable Chef, with more than 20 years of experience in the culinary world. I was just your regular food server when we met about two years ago. We instantly felt a connection back then and today, we have a baby together.

When we found out we were pregnant with Ayanna, we were ecstatic! At that time in our lives we were definitely not ready for a baby but deep down, we had so much love for each other that we were secretly trying to conceive anyway! It was stressful and exciting at the same time.

During my pregnancy, my family lived quite far from us, so when Ayanna finally came into this world, I had to figure out how to be a mom on my own. I was fortunate that my other half had taken a few weeks off to stay home with me. He really is a good man – I’m very lucky.

To those of you who are or will be first time moms, were you ready for what’s to come? To be responsible for a life? I thought I was, but when the time finally came, I realized how much I didn’t know.

The struggle is real! From the traumas of birth to coming home with your newborn, it’s all so exhausting yet exciting! Though I was fortunate enough to have minor consequences from the actual birth, the reality of caring for my newborn was another story… I had the worst time with breastfeeding and latching. My little one just wouldn’t latch, and when she did, it was so painful! She would scream and scream and scream and there were many, many sleepless, inconsolable, and desperate nights…

People have told me many things like what to do, what not to do, this and that…. and yet there were so many other things that they didn’t tell me. So I decided to write a blog for first time moms (all moms really), who have, and are struggling with pregnancy and postpartum, and for those who lived far from their families and support systems and had to learn how to be a mom on their own.

I hope this blog will provide strength, reassurance, and guidance to those who feel lost, hopelessness and despair. I want to remind all first time mothers that yes, immediately postpartum, it can feel like the toughest moments of your entire life, but it doesn’t have to be. Even in those darkest moments, motherhood is a still a beautiful thing.

I want to remind mothers that everything is going to be okay, and that there will always be someone to help – and that you are doing a great job, and you are a great mom.

Thanks for reading. xoxo

Increasing your breast milk supply: What worked and what didn’t for me

Immediately postpartum, I was determined to breastfeed my newborn baby because breast milk is the most natural and beneficial food to feed your infant. Unfortunately, I struggled with breastfeeding and latching to the point where I was miserable. I wasn’t able to focus on what truly mattered – enjoying those precious early moments with my newborn baby. I tried a couple of tips to increase my milk supply but my other postpartum issues got the best of me and I switched to formula. For those who want to breastfeed and increase their milk supply, I have listed some tips and strategies that worked and didn’t for me below. But before we begin, you need to understand the basics of breastfeeding!

Breast milk is the most natural way to feed your baby.

…contains vitamins, protein, fats, and antibodies to meet your infants growing needs.

Colostrum is the first milk substance that your breasts produce for your newborn baby.

…is concentrated breast milk that is expelled from a mother’s breast in the early stages of postpartum. It is antibody and laxative rich. Colostrum is thicker and more yellowish in color. Eventually, colostrum will develop into regular breast milk which is lighter in color and not as thick.

Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process. The more you breastfeed, the more your body will produce milk.

As your baby nurses, the amount of milk that the baby takes in notifies your body to produce more. Therefore, the most important advice I can give is to frequently breastfeed and pump, even at night! In the early stages of postpartum, it is important to breastfeed or pump at least every 2-4 hours to increase the demand and supply. The more you demand from your body, the more your body will supply. Of course this won’t happen over night. It is draining and you already have so much on your plate, but keep at it and your milk supply will increase with time and dedication.

It is also important to consider how your baby latches onto your nipple.

Sometimes, improper latching can prevent the infant from getting enough milk, and this may also contribute to pain when breastfeeding. Breastfeeding should not be painful. Seek help from a lactation consultant at your hospital or reach out to your doctor if you are unsure about how to latch your baby properly or how to hold them when breastfeeding. There are various ways and methods to hold your infant that is most comfortable for you, your body and your baby.

Before considering if your breasts are producing enough milk, consider how your baby is latching on to you.

Firstly, hold your baby tummy to tummy with the baby’s mouth positioned in front of your nipple.

The baby’s head should be facing forward and his or her body should be aligned with yours. Don’t make your baby turn his or her head to reach. This is uncomfortable for them if they have to feed for long periods of time like this.

The infant needs to grasp both the nipple and part of your areola. The areola is the ring of pigment surrounding your nipple. It will cause pain if only the nipple is grasped due to pinching.

Rubbing your nipple to your baby’s nose and brushing along his or her mouth will stimulate the baby to open their mouths wide. This is called the “rooting reflex.” At the widest point of opening, insert your breast as deep as possible to avoid only latching the nipple.

If the infant latches on incorrectly (and you will know cause it’s painful!), break the suction by inserting your finger into the baby’s mouth. Do not try to pull the baby away as this can cause nipple soreness and trauma.

Feeding holds for all mothers
  • Cradle
  • Cross cradle or cross over
  • Football hold
  • Back lying
  • Australian hold
  • Side lying cradle
Breastfeeding positions for every day use and comfort.
http://www.mummymadness.com.au
Get comfy when breastfeeding. Prevent back aches and improper body mechanics that may worsen in the future.

At first, I thought I could live without a rocking chair or a breastfeeding pillow but honestly, when your sitting there holding your baby and breastfeeding so so so frequently, your back and neck will start to ache

If you can, invest in a comfy rocking chair! This will make all the difference especially for those late nights when you’re up with a fussy baby. As well, a feeding pillow (U-shaped pillow) will help when you’re on the go or if you’re unable to sit in the rocking chair.

Here are some tips I used to help increase my milk supply.

Make sure to drink lots of water!

I can’t stress how important it is to keep hydrated, breastfeeding or not. Drink plenty of water. About two liters per day is enough for both breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding mothers. I heard that it is a myth that breastfeeding mothers need more water than their non-breastfeeding counterparts… Also, don’t force yourself to chug water! This can be very dangerous and can lead to fluid overload! An adequate amount of enough to help with your milk supply.

Herbal supplements are a great and natural way to increase breast milk supply.

I have used the following herbs below to help increase my milk supply:

  • Fenugreek (along with fennel and milk thistle)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger
Fenugreek, along with fennel, milk thistle and other milk stimulating ingredients are infused into Mearthmama's organic milkmaid tea.
Earth Mama Organic Milkmaid Tea has great reviews! Mothers have worn by it.

It contains fenugreek, as well as fennel, milk thistle and other milk stimulating herbs. I purchased a set of 3 boxes of tea from Amazon. Each box contains 16 tea bags for a total of 48 bags and I had 3 cups of tea per day. So it took me a total of 16 days to use up the entire 3 boxes and honestly, as much as I really wanted this super tea to work, I didn’t do much for my milk supply. I read amazing reviews from other moms and hoped that this would be the perfect solution but unfortunately it did very little. At least the flavor of the tea was pleasant! There is a moderate licorice fragrance and flavor to the tea which I didn’t mind at all.

Who knows, this tea might work for you. Other mothers seem to swear b\y it! I got mine at Amazon for $19.50 CDN. Let me know in the comments about how the tea has worked for you!

I tried using teas that contained these ingredients because not only do I love tea but it was easy to consume and enjoy with a newborn baby schedule. But you can take these ingredients in other forms such as in capsules or liquid drops.

Ginger helps with healing after birth and also adds to bleeding risks.

On the day my baby came, my mom arrived to the hospital with a big tub of rice and sauteed ginger! She swore that ginger helped with healing and increased her milk supply when she was nursing me. So it worked for my mom way back when but for me, I saw a very mild difference. Keep in mind I didn’t take in as much ginger as I wanted – say once per week. But I love cooking with ginger, and wished I had put more effort into eating more of it when I was breastfeeding. I was also told that eating too much of ginger can change the flavor of your breast milk and I don’t know if a baby’s flavor profile is ready for that spicy, peppery taste… (this goes for spicy foods too!) If anyone has found ginger to be helpful in increasing milk supply, please comment! I would love to hear your thoughts. Ginger is also used for nausea and vomiting but has been shown to increase bleeding.

Garlic is an antioxidant but increases bleeding risk.

Studies show that garlic also plays a role in milk production. It is also an antioxidant used to lower cholesterol levels. A side effect of garlic is increased bleeding, just like ginger.

I love garlic, and I use garlic in almost all of my cooking, pre- and postpartum. I didn’t really increase my intake of garlic when I was trying to increase my milk so I can’t say for sure if it helped or not. Let me know in the comments if you increased your garlic intake and it made a difference!

Barley is a great galactogogue to help increase breast milk supply.

Beer contains barley and the polysaccharides in barley stimulates prolactin (PRL), a hormone produced in the pituitary gland which facilitates milk production.

I found this tip really worked! I recommend drinking non-alcoholic beer of course as alcohol does pass through your breast milk to your baby, but in much smaller concentrations.

Or you can just eat barley. My mother in-law made me a wonderful barley soup where the galactagogue goodness (a substance that promotes lactation) infuses into the broth of the soup – the best part! Yum, it was such a delicious soup.

When I did drink non-alcoholic beer, literally in about 3 hours, I could feel my breasts tighten and engorgement with milk!

I really recommend eating or drinking more barely when breastfeeding. The results appeared quickly and substantially.

Lactation consultants at hospitals and clinics are here to help with breastfeeding mothers who are struggle.

Seek help from your doctor or hospital! The next day after I gave birth, a lactation consultant visited me and we had a one on one session on proper latching and the different ways to hold a baby (refer to latching above). It really helped! At my hospital, there is also a breastfeeding clinic where mothers can return with their baby as many times as they need to if they’re still having trouble latching or breastfeeding.

Breast massages and warm compresses

Stimulating milk supply can occur through increasing blood flow and warmth to the breast. Massaging the breast and expressing some milk before feeding your newborn leads to “let down” reflex where your milk flow is greatest. It makes it easier for your baby to feed adequately. Taking a nice warm shower or applying a warm compress will also help achieve to the let down reflex. This is a great tip and has worked wonders.

Skin to skin contact is the most important step after birth.

Skin to skin contact between you and your baby is the very first thing you do after delivery. Benefits of skin to skin contact include:

  • stimulates rooting reflex (sucking)
  • warmth and stabilization of body temperature
  • bonding
  • regulation of blood sugar, heart rate, breathing
  • comfort and relief for the baby (decreased crying)
  • eases the transition from the womb to the outside word

Those are all the tips I tried to improve my milk supply. But really the best way to do so as naturally as possible is to…

Pump every 2-4 hours to increase your breast milk supply.

or…

breastfeed as frequently as possible!

Breastfeeding – It doesn’t come as naturally as you think…

Throughout my pregnancy, I was determined to be as natural as possible. This meant many things: a natural (painful) birth and breastfeeding – because natural is always best, right? Even though it may be the scariest, most painful moments in your life, it’s what’s expected of us as mothers. It’s the self sacrifice and unconditional love for our offspring that makes us push our humanly limits to do what’s best.

You would think that breastfeeding comes naturally – and it does. Breastfeeding is natural and is a naturally occurring phenomenon, but the process doesn’t occur as flawlessly as you would think – especially for first time mothers like myself.

When I gave birth to my baby girl in January, I had the worst time with latching and expelling my colostrum. It was the most painful sensation I have ever felt! Mind you, I had just given birth to her and was dealing with the aftermath of 3 tears and an agonizing 34 hours of labor, and I still believed that the sensation of my baby sucking at my breasts and the entire process of latching was worse than birth itself… I just had extremely sensitive breasts that just weren’t used to that sucking sensation – and I have to say, my newborns sucking strength was very strong! (Well, all newborn’s sucking should generally be strong…)

It took me 3 months to finally get my breasts used to my newborns sucking strength and by that time, I felt it was too late. (Or is it?…) Today, my baby is on formula and that’s ok.

To mothers and parents who feed their child formula, let me just say, you’re doing what’s right for you and your baby. I have no judgement for mothers who breastfeed, or use formula, or both. I say…

There is this immense pressure from society to breastfeed your child exclusively because that’s what’s best and most natural. Breastfeeding has benefits not only for baby but for mom too. It has all the vitamins, proteins, fat and antibodies that the newborn needs to grow. For mom, breastfeeding helps burn calories faster to lose all that baby weight, and it triggers the release of oxytocin to contract your uterus to return it back it its normal size. (Of course your uterus will never really be the same again after pregnancy, along with many other things…) But sometimes and for some families, breastfeeding really isn’t what’s best at all. I remember talking to my OBGYN about how I badly wanted to continue breastfeeding but how painful it was to not only to latch but to watch my baby “starve” and not get enough from me. I had tried everything from lactation consultants to breast massages and warm compresses and so forth… (Check out my post about breastfeeding tips here.) I felt that I had already failed as a mother, and she was only just a few weeks old. She assured me that breastfeeding isn’t always the right decision for every family and I had to do what was right for mine. She also said that I would be surprised by how many of us were formula fed, herself included!

Along with PUPPP (pruritic urticarial papules and plaques of pregnancy) and other conflicting postpartum issues, I had to set aside my unrealistic goals in order to do what was truly best for my baby, and that was to switch to formula feeds. Today, she is a vibrant and cheerful little 5 month old baby and honestly, if she were on my breast milk, she would still be just as vibrant and cheerful.

I had spoken to another mom about my failures of breastfeeding, and she reassured me that I was doing just fine. She said she had breastfed her first child exclusively because she wanted to be as natural as possible. And then, she had a second child who she tried to breastfeed exclusively as well. And then unexpectedly, a third child came. At this point, she couldn’t keep up with the crazy demand so she switched to formula for her last two children. She said to me, “…my oldest son who had my breast milk is just as weird as my youngest who is on formula…And I hope this makes you feel much better, because I know I did.

So to those who truly do want to breastfeed exclusively, here are a few tips I wish I had known while I was pregnant:

If you are going to be a first time mom and are currently pregnant, feel your breasts and try massaging them. If they feel tender or painful upon moderate pressure, then you may have a tough time with breastfeeding like I did. Of course, not everyone is the same and breastfeeding may come about more easily for some mothers compared to others. And if the pain is that excruciating, you may be experiencing breast engorgement or duct blockage. Always check with your doctor if you’re unsure. Massaging the breasts is the most important tip I can give to new mothers like myself who have no idea what they’re doing! I had to push through the pain of massaging and rubbing my breasts to “let down” the milk all while trying to make sure my newborn baby was getting enough. It was draining. Massaging those breasts helps them get used to movement and pressure so start early, even before baby arrives! And when it comes time to latch on your newborn, these sensations shouldn’t be so new to your breasts. Of course, it may still be painful at first but not as excruciating. That way, you’ll be able to better enjoy those precious moments of your first feeding with your newborn baby instead of focusing on the “why can’t I feed my newborn like other mothers do so naturally?! I have failed as a mother already…Nope, none of that!

Of course, drink plenty of water. This not only helps with your milk supply, but it also helps to reduce the pedal edema (swelling in the feet) by flushing out all the excess fluid that has developed in your body. (During pregnancy, our bodies produce and retains fluid to meet the needs for your developing fetus.)

Always try to minimize stress! That is a given. Stress contributes to so many health conditions in every aspect of life. Be kind to yourself! You are creating a new life and that’s pretty darn amazing! Take some deep breaths, think happy thoughts, and surround yourself with good vibes.

Also, continue to exercise! Avoid strenuous training but continue with those stretches or even take a scenic walk. Ask your doctor what is right for you but if your condition doesn’t warrant otherwise, then continue to be active throughout your pregnancy. Remember to rest when you are tired. Being active is great but don’t push it. Trust your instinct. Move when you want to, rest when you need to.

Lastly, ask for help. It’s ok to admit you have no idea what you’re doing. I mean, do we really know what were doing? I know I didn’t and everything turned out just fine. Another piece of advise to new moms is, no matter how bad you think it gets, it will always pass. It won’t last forever. Talk to someone – your partner, a family member, a friend, your doctor. Reassure yourself that everything is ok, and that you are doing great and you’re a good mom. Hopefully they will reassure you too.

To those having a tough time with breastfeeding and are considering formula feeds, that’s ok too. Modern science has created some amazing inventions, and now mothers struggling with breastfeeding don’t have to feel so defeated and alone anymore. Formula will not make your child any less of a person than those fed with breast milk. You have not failed as a mother. You are not a bad mom.