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Flat head in babies (plagiocephaly)

Upoko papatahi ki ngā pēpi

A flattened area of a baby's head (usually at the back and to one side) is called plagiocephaly.

A tamaiti (child) with plagiocephaly may:

Causes of flat head in babies

Babies' skulls are soft and can be moulded into a flat shape. This is caused by pressure and gravity if the baby's head stays in one position for a long time. It's most likely when the babies are young and have less head control.

There may be no obvious cause, but possible causes of flattened areas are:

Flattened areas are often associated with a twisted neck (torticollis). Torticollis is when the pēpi cannot move their head much in one direction and prefers to turn it to one side. Flattened areas and torticollis can also happen independently.

A rare cause of flat head in pēpi is a problem with the bones in the skull being fixed together too soon (craniosynostosis). If you're concerned your pēpi has an unusually shaped head, get them checked by your general practice team.

Treating flat head in babies

These recommendations can treat flattened areas on a baby's head as well as prevent them.

Sleeping

Floor time

Tummy time

FDP laughing baby

Other

Contact your general practice team or Well Child Tamariki Ora provider if you've tried the above advice and your baby's head is not getting better or if you have any questions.

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Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2022.

Sources

Page reference: 114677

Review key: HIFHC-114677