plagiocephaly

FLAT HEAD SYNDROME & BABY HELMETS


THE MRS.NIPPLE SERIES X ARTICLE 2 DEVON


This is a topic I have always been curious about and another reason I'm so grateful so many moms are sharing their stories. If you have ever wondered why some babies wear helmets or are starting to notice your baby’s head taking on a less than round shape then this is a must read. Yet another story about the power of a mother’s intuition!

I'll let Devon take it from here: 

The doctor entered the room, “Plagiocephaly as a result of torticollis.” My husband and I just looked at each other. “Sorry but English is our first language.” The doctor laughed, “He has an asymmetrically flat head from stiff neck muscles.” Ah, okay, that we could understand.

Rewind 3 months earlier when we welcomed our first child into the world. I didn’t have a difficult labor, as in no long drawn out process of pushing for 72 hours or anything crazy.  However, I did have an epidural so I was basically chillin. When the time came that I needed to begin active labor and push, it came to my doctor’s attention that our son was transverse. Typically a doctor will see this and call for an emergency c-section, but my husband and I made it very clear that we wanted to avoid that by any means necessary. Thank God our doctor was old school, the type that wore the same small yellow round frames and a bowtie to every appointment and I like to think every delivery under his scrubs. In any event, he knew the method of flipping the baby while still inside the mother’s birth canal and ensure he came out head down. After a successful flip, our sweet boy entered the world and he was absolutely perfect. He always looked so peaceful when he slept, his head tilted slightly to the left and swaddled just right by his daddy who really should be in the Guinness Book of World Records for swaddling babies. 

We had been home for about a week and like with all first born babies, it is a life altering adjustment for everyone.  However, the silver lining was that he was a decent sleeper. He would sometimes sleep for four  hour stretches and he loved to doze in his swing and carseat. Looking back at pictures, I’m not sure how we missed  In every picture of him whether he is awake or sleeping, he always was comfortable with his head tilted to the left. After about three weeks, kI was giving him a bath and I noticed the back left side of his head seemed like it was a bit flat. My husband agreed but when we brought it up to our family they passed us off like we were just worrisome first time parents. “Don’t worry, it will even itself out.” That was the common statement all of our friends and family members gave us. But the more the days went by and the more people said assured us, the flatter it seemed to be getting.

I remember vividly, it was Mother’s  Day and my mother-in-law took me to the local nail salon for a pedicure. Looking back maybe it was a sign from the universe. I'll never forget the owner of the salon walked out from the back room and as he walked by the back of his head was the flattest I’ve ever seen, the equivalent to a 90 degree angle. Not kidding. I remember looking at my MIL and crying saying “I don’t want him to have a flat head!” She reassured me he wouldn’t and that he was still young and it would “round out.” 

The next day I called and made an appointment with a doctor’s office called Cranial Technologies. They specialize in identifying and treating babies and children with various forms of plagiocephaly as well as providing a safe and effective Dynamic Orthotic Cranioplasty, otherwise known as the DOC band. My husband and I did not know what to expect at our initial eval and had never even heard of a DOC band before. All we knew was we were going to show the doctor our baby’s head and hopefully get some confirmation that we were not crazy and that our baby’s head really was flat.

The first step, aside from just checking our baby over, was to have some imaging done of his head. This is the cute part. They put a little ped type thing on his head and sat him in a chair, although at just 3 months old there wasn’t much sitting on his own so I had to hold him up. Then they start taking 3-D images of all angles of his head to be able to see more clearly than by the naked eye. After about 10 minutes of imaging, we were back in the room waiting for our doctor. She came back in the room with the images of our son’s head in her hand.  “So how does it look?” my husband asked reluctantly. “He has a severe case of plagiocephaly as a result of torticollis.” I'll never forget the feeling I had when she said that, it was a mixture of relief, guilt and sadness. She showed us the images and we could easily see how badly shaped his head had become. The more pressing thing according to our doctor was that because he had flatness on the side of his head and not in the back, it was beginning to change the shape of his face. The flatter it became the more his left cheek started to protrude. The minute we were shown the images, I saw it all and I couldn’t unsee it. I remember crying a little and I think my husband was in slight shock but we both knew it all along. 

The good news was he qualified for the DOC band and we could get the process going immediately. The band is really just a little helmet that is designed specifically to your baby’s head and stays on 23 hours a day, with the exception of bath time, no matter what. It is designed to apply custom pressure on various areas of the head to redirect the natural growth of the head into a normal shape. The amount of time each child has to wear their helmet varies based on the severity of the case. 

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Treatments usually start when the child is between the ages of 4-6 months and can last until they are 18 months of age. For some children a second helmet is recommended for maximum benefit. The difficult part for me was the amount of time he would be wearing the helmet. My poor 3 month old baby has to wear this helmet all day, everyday, for the next 6 weeks-4 months! Summer was just starting and this poor kid was going to be sweating! To my surprise, he did much better than I thought. I imagined he would be pulling at it and crying, but he didn’t. So this began our new normal. 

Every week we would go back to see the doctor and she would measure his head and make regular adjustments to the interior of the helmet to direct head growth and ensure we would see optimal results. Believe it or not, the helmet is super light weight and didn’t effect him or his play at all. We got used to seeing him in it and used to seeing all the weird looks from strangers. People thought he had some sort of disability and when they asked, we would reply,  “Oh, he’s fine. He just  had a flat head!” 

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In conjunction with the regular DOC band appointments, we were also attending weekly physical therapy sessions to help with the torticollis. The goal here was to loosen up the tight left neck muscles and strengthen the right side that was weak. This part was equally as crucial because if we didn’t fix the torticollis he would continue to lie on his left side and his head could potentially begin to flatten again. After 5 weeks of PT sessions with the doctor and daily home workouts, we saw a huge improvement in his posture and an improvement in his sleeping as he now was able to roll over. 

The DOC band is basically a very plain, white helmet. My husband and I were shown some helmets that parents had decorated with stickers and writing but my husband knew exactly what he wanted to do. We were making this a football helmet! Against my better judgment, I let him choose his favorite team, which is unfortunate because my favorite team is better but that’s a another story. We found a really cool guy almost a mile down the road from our doctor who does vinyl custom wraps on everything from cars to lap tops so we thought why couldn’t he design a wrap for our helmet? It was his first DOC band he ever did and it came out better than we could have imagined! People would come up to us after we had it wrapped and said, ”Oh my gosh what an awesome helmet! Where can I get one?” We always laughed and would say that they definitely didn’t want this type of helmet,  but it always made us feel better when people would be so  complimentary.

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About 7 weeks had passed since he had been wearing his helmet and we had a routine doctor’s appointment. I remember being in the office and our doctor came in to take the measurements of his head. She was so shocked to see how far along his progress had come and wanted to do another round of imaging. We had more pictures taken and after looking at the images, our doctor was amazed. His head was almost perfectly shaped.  She said it was the fastest adjustment she had ever seen and that we would definitely not need a second helmet. In fact, he would most likely be out of the current one in another 2 weeks. I couldn’t believe it! In just 7 short weeks his head was almost perfectly shaped!

We went back two weeks later to do our final consult and more imaging. The doctor provided side by side images from when we started to where we were now and my husband and I were astounded. Seeing what his head looked like when we began to where we were now was night and day. Our doctor was so pleased with his progress that she asked if she could share his before and after photos with future patients because this was one of the best results she had seen in her 27 years of practice. We,of course, said yes and left the doctor that day helmet free. 

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Looking back, it was the best decision my husband and I ever made. I think sometimes if we had listened to our family and friends we would be in such a different place today. I see him running around now at 3 years old with all his hair grown in and you would never be able to tell that anything was ever wrong with him. That is the best part of all of this. We trusted our gut and came together as a team to do what was best for our child and family and we could not be happier. 

Devon @devondiaz11

Please see this article for more information around plagiocephaly, HERE.   

If you are interested in getting your babies DOC band decorated you can find DJ Brown's information, HERE.