What is flathead syndrome?

Ask most moms if they’ve seen a baby wearing a plastic helmet, and they’ll tell you, ‘of course.’ However, ask those same moms if they know why those babies are wearing the helmets, most will admit they aren’t sure.

The truth is that the increase in “helmet babies” is actually due to the substantial rise in a serious, but preventable condition known most commonly as “flat head syndrome.”

The Backstory:

In 1992, the American Academy of Pediatrics launched the “Back to Sleep” Campaign to reduce the occurrence of Sudden infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in newborns. While “Back to Sleep” has been a truly life-saving service and has decreased SIDS deaths by over 50%, this initiative has had some unintended consequences.

“Back to Sleep”, coupled with the amount of time newborns spend on their backs not only sleeping/napping, but in their car seats, bouncers and swings has given way to a shockingly steep increase in the occurrence of positional plagiocephaly or “flat head syndrome.”

What is Flat Head Syndrome?

Positional plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome is a condition in which the back or one side of an infant’s head becomes flattened. This flattening is most often the result of spending a lot of time lying on their backs or often being in a position where the head is resting against a flat surface (such as in cribs, strollers, swings and playpens). Torticollis is often present in babies suffering from plagiocephaly. Torticollis, sometimes called wryneck, is a condition in which an infant’s head and neck become tilted to one side, creating a shortened neck muscle on one side. Torticollis can be caused by positioning in uterus or from a lack of proper head and neck movement.


These conditions, when caught, can be extremely expensive and emotionally and physically difficult to treat. Painful physical therapy is often required, and in severe cases, cranial remolding (the helmet) is necessary. When not diagnosed early enough, they can develop into life-long issues for the child.

One study indicates the presence of intellectual difference in children with plagiocephaly versus those without, demonstrating that 39% of children with persistent deformational plagiocephaly received special education service vs. 7.7% of their siblings. (http://www.oandp.org/jpo/library/2004_04S_005.asp)

Prevention is Key

To prevent the development of flat spots, parents should actively reposition throughout the day. The goal of repositioning is to encourage baby to place equal weight distribution on various areas of the head (to avoid the formation of a flat spot) as well as to stretch the neck muscles through rotation to both sides of their body.

About Tortle

Founded by Dr. Jane Scott in 2012, Tortle Products, LLC is located in Greenwood Village, CO. Tortle Products is the maker of Tortle, a comfortable, lightweight baby beanie that helps prevent the problem of positional plagiocephaly, or flat head syndrome prevalent among infants. All babies are at risk for this condition. Tortle is available in three sizes and a variety of colors and designs. It sells at a recommended retail price of $19.99 at www.tortle.com. For more information visit www.tortle.com. Follow Tortle and Dr. Scott on Facebook at facebook.com/TortlebyDr.Jane; on Twitter: TortlebyDrJane and on Pinterest: pinterest.com/tortlebydrjane.