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What is Plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly is asymmetry (unevenness) in the shape of a baby’s skull, typically this is a flat spot on either the back of or on one side of the head. It is often known as ‘flat head syndrome’. As a result of this condition and depending on the severity, the forehead may bulge slightly on one side and the ears may be misaligned.

What Causes Plagiocephaly?

Constant pressure on a particular area of a baby’s soft skull can lead to a change in the shape of the head. Some of the factors that may result in this condition include

Premature Birth

Babies that are born prematurely often have much softer skulls than babies born at full term, they also may be less able to move their heads. This means they are more at risk of developing plagiocephaly.

Tightness in the Neck Muscles 

Babies experiencing tightness in their neck muscles are often unable to move their heads from certain positions, which can mean additional pressure on the back or side of their heads.

Sleeping Position 

NHS safe sleeping guidelines advise that babies should be laid on their backs to sleep, which can lead to flat spots on the back or side of their heads. Whilst this advice can, sometimes, result in plagiocephaly, it is extremely important to follow the guidance to reduce the risk of SIDS

Issues in the Womb 

Reduced amniotic fluid and limited space in the womb can put pressure on the skull of an unborn baby, impacting the shape of the head. 



What Can you do to Prevent Plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly caused by a constant sleeping position can sometimes be prevented or improved by reducing the pressure on a specific part of the skull. This includes

  • Allowing the baby to experience new positions during play such as tummy time
  • Using a sling or carrier to reduce the amount of time that the baby spends lying on a flat surface such as in a pram
  • Swapping the side on which you hold your baby for feeding 
  • Physiotherapy for tight neck muscles. 

What is the Treatment for Plagiocephaly?

In the majority of cases, the head will return to a normal shape over time. However, in some severe cases, treatment may be sought. The treatment involves the child wearing a custom-made orthosis helmet for a period of between 4 and 6 months, and during this time the band is closely monitored and adjusted if need be eventually correcting the shape of the baby’s head.

The NHS does not actively advocate the use of corrective helmets. Their view is that, following the guidelines for the ‘back to sleep’ campaign, where babies should be positioned on their backs to reduce the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome or cot death, babies who subsequently develop a ‘flat head’ should be encouraged to play on their tummies, in order to redress the compression caused by lying on their backs. Whilst this is effective in the majority of cases of plagiocephaly, 13% will experience minor improvement in the head shape and 4% of this group will remain severe.

For the small group of severe cases, plagiocephaly treatment offers the opportunity for the head shape to be brought in line with that of their peers. Whilst it is a cosmetic intervention, it could be considered to have wider benefits from a psychosocial perspective.

How Can Tree of Hope Help?

Tree of Hope supports families of children with Plagiocephaly to fundraise for a headband or helmet, the cost of which is typically around £2,000. The charity has helped a number of families access our fundraising service to pay for plagiocephaly band treatment from establishments including Ahead for Babies, The London Orthotics Clinic and Technology in Motion.

To discuss starting your fundraising campaign with Tree of Hope please contact our Family Support Team on 01892 535525 or via

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