More and more babies these days suffer from deformed heads. Despite there being several causes for this, the most common is sleeping or lying position. Babies may already have developed their favourite, most comfortable sleeping position while still in the womb while others will only find theirs after birth. Constantly lying on the same side, while the bones of the head are still soft can push the skull out of shape, causing flattening.
For many years the advice was to lay babies on their back or their tummy in order for them to sleep better. It was later discovered that the instances of sudden infant death (cot death) was raised in babies who slept on their front. After advising babies should sleep on their side or their back, the instances of cot death was reduced.
In the years that followed, the babies were generally put on their side.
The advice to have babies sleep on their back came from 1989. The number of cases of cot death began to fall again, to about 20 per year.
The supine position, however, created a new problem: crooked growth of the baby's head. A baby lying on the back develops a preferential posture. If a baby always looks the same way with his head, there is uneven pressure on the skull. As a result, the side that is always laid on will become flattened.
Nowadays, about 20,000 children suffer from a crooked growth of the head every year. This is permanent for 5,000 babies. With 500 babies, this is even so serious that the face also changes permanently.
A large number of babies can be helped by means of physical therapy and exercises at home. A few do not have enough of that and can be helped by a plagiocephaly helmet.
Asymmetry of the baby's head occurs in about 1 in 10 infants, at an age below half a year. In babies younger than 4 months, 15 to 17 percent appears to have a preferred posture.
What seems good to help for babies with a crooked growth of the head is physiotherapy, in combination with care advice. After a number of treatments, most babies no longer have a preferred posture. The asymmetery at 1 year will be completely disappeared in 33 percent of all affected babies.