When you have a child all your senses go into hyper speed. Your baby’s well-being comes before everything- even your own basic needs. It comes pretty naturally.
The thought of something being medically wrong with your baby is unbearable. Something I have come to realize though is that every baby is going to have SOMETHING. Something at birth like jaundice, weight problems, constant ear infections, allergies- something that will end up bringing that parent to the doctor for a legitimate reason.
That time has come for baby Shiloh. At his two month check up we brought him to his pediatrician who noted a flat spot on his skull. Honestly once it was pointed out- I was extremely embarrassed to not have noticed it myself. From many angles it’s plain as day, FLAT. Other views make it seem like his skull is shifted one way, which it kind of is. She didn’t want us to worry and apparently it’s very common nowadays with the number steadily increasing.
You might be thinking- what?! Why isn’t anyone doing something about that!
Well, flat skull is the side effect of the solution to a bigger problem. SIDS. Or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The risk is significantly increased when a baby sleeps on their stomach, so safe sleep protocol is now heavily pushed, encouraging parents to have babies sleep on their backs. Combine that with the fact that their little skulls are so malleable in the first 6 months and they spend 18 hours a day sleeping, you can see where flat skull is going to be unavoidable for many! The much lesser of two evils.
Funnily enough this isn’t the lead cause for Shiloh’s condition. Though I have no doubt that it didn’t help it at all either. Flat skull can be caused from things happening in the womb- or really the lack of things happening.
I’m short. Really short. Shiloh was cramped the entire pregnancy to the point of not leaving one side of his body. This caused him to have Torticollis, when in babies, it’s a tightness/weakness/underdeveloped muscle in the neck that contracts causing their head to turn to one side, often at an angle. In Shiloh’s case, that muscle tightness is on the entire right side of his body from his intrauterine position.
It sounds worse than it is. I keep having to qualify “for him” because this comes in such a wide range- for him, he is able to lift his head. He started trying to do it on his own after the day her was born, no lie. But, he has a skull base shift which throws a little loop for him. His midline, (like how we face forward and our shoulders, body, legs fall in line) is shifted to favor his weak side. Basically to face forward and reach for something with both arms to something directly in front of him is a lot of extra and painful work. The equivalent of you having to turn your head and reach your arm over to the right for anything you would normally want to grab.
This is something that can be fixed with some diligent work! Babies can even resolve it on their own. In his case the extra help is really nice since it’s more than just his neck. Our pediatrician recommended physical therapy. I was skeptical, especially with how often they wanted to see him… twice a week is a lot.
The improvement is phenomenal though! They teach as they interact with Shiloh so I can do everything at home with him. Little One has a great time and gets an opportunity to be socialized and handled by someone that isn’t me! His balance has dramatically improved. He was applauded for his strength when we got there and if it wasn’t for the fact that he thinks the right is center, you’d never know he had these muscle issues.
I guess my point is that, sometimes doing these “extra” things are worth it. While at PT, they keep an eye on his skull which wasn’t getting any better. The more it grew, the more pushed forward one of his ears became. Other subtle things were noticeable too.
For the second time a helmet was brought up to me. This time it wasn’t a “heads up” talk. It was a “it’s time” talk.
To be completely honest I had some awful mom guilt. I felt like it was my fault he was ending up in this helmet and that he would be miserable in it. She gave me some information about Cranial Technologies and DocBand and encouraged me to schedule the free evaluation to see the images and decide from there.
At this point, you really didn’t need scans to see his flat skull- which after reading the information I was given I decided it was plagiocephaly. Of the types of flat skull, plagiocephaly won’t cause brain development issues which is an amazing upside. It can cause asymmetry of the face and not just in the “funky model” way. Uneven cheekbones and ears would make it hard to impossible to wear to glasses. The shifts with plagiocephaly can also make safety helmets fit incorrectly and even hearing/vision problems.
We got the evaluation set up and went in for the scans. It’s really technology. You sit with your baby and they are surrounded by cameras (pictured above.) They plop this space sock thingy on their hand and snap a quick picture. It takes a bit to process but it goes down to a greyscale to show exactly where dents and lifts are.
Our clinician let us know he is tipping towards severe plagiocephaly. The average amount of time their babies are in DocBand is 3 months and Shiloh will likely need 7 months and 2 different helmets to full correct it.
The idea of the helmet was something we already wrapped our head around (no pun intended) so after hearing that we immediately asked to proceed. We didn’t want to wait any longer. The sooner the better. After finding out that getting the insurance company to say anything back to them can take three weeks, our only wish was that we had gone in SOONER.
Here is my hope: that by spreading some education about this, that more people can ID in the early stages if their baby could benefit from something like this! After 6 months old, it’s harder to reshape the head. After 1 year, I wouldn’t be optimistic. Even though newborns don’t do a lot, there are definitely things we could have been on the look-out for!
Of course the obvious, you can see the shape and think it’s off. When they don’t have hair, spots like that are more easily seen but you also have to remember that the spots are typically on the back of their head- which they are laying on. If they aren’t laying down, you’re probably holding them so it can still be hard to get a good view so if you don’t plainly notice this – just like how we did not!- do not beat yourself up about it!
You could start observing one ear shifting forward. That could be a sign of one side becoming flat. Other parts of their facial plane might appear to be more pronounced than the other side as well. Sometimes a “flat skull” is less like a flat spot on a round head and it’s more like if the head were full of liquid and one side seemed a little more full than the other. Does that make sense? It’s how I feel plagiocephaly presents itself. Whereas brachycephaly is more like what you imagine with the term flat skull, flat on the backside.
What we noticed but didn’t know what a sign was Shiloh favored one side. He always wanted to roll one direction. Lay on one side. Use a particular arm, but had the ability to use the other so it wasn’t alarming. His head rolled one way when we’d put him in his car seat or swings. Part of this is his Torticollis, which keeps him from wanting to go the other way but it caused a “flat” spot which not makes it harder to roll over and the cycle continues. See where I’m going with this? It’s an unavoidable thing- if it’s going to happen, it will.
The great news is we recently found out we can fix it young and prevent problems later on in growing. In 1992, the back-sleeping protocol was announced by the AAP, that’s not even that long ago! The fact that we already connected the two and have a good treatment in place is pretty great. About one in ten babies are said to now experience some form of craniosynostosis.
Putting your baby in a helmet is about to be as common as oat milk in your latte. Don’t be embarrassed or immediately reject the idea if ever proposed to you about your baby. Of course, not all craniosynostosis is bad enough it needs to be treated but no harm in getting the free scans done if you have questions. The process was quick and easy. When I called, I got an appointment within a week.
Our next step is the longest. The game of waiting on the insurance company to give some pricing! They warned us it could take up to three weeks. I’ll update everyone after the next steps have been taken. Wish us luck!