The Very Best New Prevention for Flat Head Syndrome: More Cuddle Time with Your Baby

Help avoid flat spots by nuzzling up to your baby.Help avoid flat spots by nuzzling up to your baby.We spend hours carefully placing our palms behind the sweet round heads of our newborns, carefully minding their soft spots, lovingly smoothing their hair with the softest of brushes. So it's no wonder we rarely talk about positional plagiocephaly, the flat head syndrome no parent wants their baby to develop.

The incidence of this condition among American babies, at least in recent years, is both a blessing and a curse. The number of children who have some form of flat head syndrome -- about 13% to date -- is an indication that babies are spending more time sleeping on their backs in the first few months of life. And this is exactly what the American Academy of Pediatrics wants to happen. Since 1992, the AAP has recommended that caregivers place babies on their backs to sleep to help prevent SIDS. Their educational campaign, CNN reports, has worked well. According to the CDC, SIDS deaths have been reduced by 50% among children under the age of one.

The side effect, however, has been a rise in the number of babies with flattened or misshapen heads during those early months when the skull is pliable. The AAP reports in an upcoming issue of the journal Pediatrics that this asymmetry is cosmetic and won't cause developmental delays. The group also calls for more skull checks and counseling during wellness visits with babies and for parents to take small steps to prevent and correct flat head syndrome in their children.

Along with the NIH, the AAP offers these tips for parents of babies who've not yet had their first birthday:

* Stick to a schedule of supervised tummy time. Babies don't always love it and so it's tempting to skip placing them on their belly. But the groups say 30 to 60 minutes of tummy time a day will help develop upper-body muscles and increase motor development, as well as helping prevent flat head syndrome. The AAP says it's fine to begin tummy time sessions right after the baby is born.

* Move your baby around the crib. Experts say parents should continue to place babies on their back, but that changing their direction will encourage natural head movements.

* Encourage head movement when babies are awake, too. If parents notice that babies tend to look in one direction while they are sleeping, the AAP encourages placing them in a position to look the other way when they are awake.

* Limit time in the car seat and bouncy chair.
Prolonged time in this static position can lead to changes in head shape. The pediatric experts won't be there when you pull a sleeping babe out and they wail for four hours because of it, but it's still sound advice to keep in mind.

* And then there's the very best one -- cuddle your sweet baboo! Holding your infant upright on your shoulder or getting in some of that great kangaroo time is the most heavenly way to bond, fall in love all over again and also prevent flat spots. It's also a good excuse to get your baby back from your mother-in-law or keep the sitter who has a hard time putting your precious little one down at all.

The report says corrective helmets are an option if issue worsens by the age of 6 months, but that their effectiveness may not be any higher than careful positioning and re-positioning of the baby. In some advanced cases when all other options have been exercised, surgery may be considered by specialists.

Did you worry about flat head syndrome with your baby? Did any of your children experience this issue? How did you handle it?