Baby's head shape: What's normal?
A baby's head is easily molded. Know why and how to care for flat spots.By Mayo Clinic Staff
Many newborns have slightly uneven heads. But is it cause for worry? Understand what causes unevenness in babies' heads and when treatment is needed.
What causes a baby's head shape to appear uneven?
Sometimes a baby's head is molded unevenly while passing through the birth canal. In other cases, head shape changes after birth as a result of pressure on the back of the head when the baby lies on his or her back.
You'll notice two soft areas at the top of your baby's head where the skull bones haven't yet grown together. These spots, called fontanels, allow a baby's relatively large head to move through the narrow birth canal. They also accommodate your baby's rapidly growing brain during infancy.
Because your baby's skull is malleable, however, a tendency to rest the head in the same position can result in an uneven head shape well past the time when birth-related lopsidedness evens out. This is known as positional plagiocephaly.
What's normal and what isn't?
Your baby's doctor will check the soft spots on your baby's head and the shape of your baby's head at birth and at each well-baby exam — usually every two to four months for the first year.
Positional molding might be most noticeable when you're looking at your baby's head from above. From that view, the back of your baby's head might look flatter on one side than on the other. The cheekbone on the flat side might protrude, and the ear on the flat side might look pushed forward.
Is an uneven head shape cause for worry?
Your baby's head shape will most likely even out on its own. Positional molding is generally considered a cosmetic issue. Flat spots related to pressure on the back of the head don't cause brain damage or interfere with a baby's growth and development.
Keep in mind that if you spend too much time worrying about your baby's head shape, you might miss some of the fun of being a new parent. In a few short months, better head and neck control will help your baby keep pressure more evenly distributed on the skull.
Jan. 29, 2015
See more In-depth
- Pogliani L, et al. Positional plagiocephaly: What the pediatrician needs to know. A review. Child's Nervous System. 2011;27:1867.
- Lipira AB, et al. Helmet versus active repositioning for plagiocephaly: A three-dimensional analysis. Pediatrics. 2010;126:e936.
- Dec W, et al. Current concepts in deformational plagiocephaly. The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery. 2011;22:6.
- McInerny TK, et al. American Academy of Pediatrics Textbook of Pediatric Care. Elk Grove Village, Ill.: American Academy of Pediatrics; 2009:2433.
- Laughlin J, et al. Prevention and management of positional skull deformities in infants. Pediatrics. 2011;128:1236.
- Mawji A, et al. The incidence of plagiocephaly: A cohort study. Pediatrics. 2013;132:1.
- Steinberg JP, et al. Effectiveness of conservative and helmet therapy for positional cranial deformation. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. In press. Accessed Dec. 19, 2014.
- Van wijk RM, et al. Helmet therapy in infants with positional skull deformation: Randomized controlled trial. British Medical Journal. 2014;341:1.
- Buchanan EP, et al. Overview of craniosynostosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Dec. 19, 2014.