Open a PDF version to print this topic

HealthInfo Canterbury

Flat head in babies (plagiocephaly)

A flattened area of the head (usually at the back and to one side) is called plagiocephaly. A child with plagiocephaly may:

If your Plunket nurse believes that the flattened area is linked with early closure of fontanelles (soft spots on a baby's head), talk to your doctor for further advice.

Causes

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 torticollis. Torticollis is when the baby can't move their head much in one direction and prefers to turn it to one side. Flattened areas and torticollis can also happen independently.

If your baby has flattened areas, follow the recommendations below. If it continues, talk to your doctor about seeing a physiotherapist.

Treatment and prevention

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

Sleeping

Play time

Tummy time

FDP laughing baby

Other

If you have any questions or concerns, contact your GP or Plunket nurse.

If you have tried the above advice and your baby's head isn't getting better, or if you're worried, contact your GP.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by Child Development Service, Montreal House, Canterbury District Health Board. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by clinical director, Paediatric Surgery, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed April 2018.

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net. Newborn smiling in his dream by David Castillo Dominici. Laughing baby by Clare Bloomfield.

Page reference: 114677

Review key: HIFHC-114677