Causes of Plagiocephaly

Plagiocephaly can occur both before or after the birth of your child and can result from:

  1. Prematurity – cranial bones are softer and more easily deformed
  2. Conditions in the womb – restrictions (small pelvis, etc.) or mulitple babies
  3. Sleeping Position – (on back) and a limited amount of tummy time
  4. Torticollis – tightness of neck muscles
  5. Overuse of Carriers – infant seats, swings and strollers

1Prematurity

The skull bones are softer in a premature infant, therefore prolonged, frequent positioning on one side may lead to asymmetry. Many extremely premature infants spend extended periods of time in the NICU on ventilators, which increases the risk for deformational Plagiocephaly.

2Conditions in the womb

Multitple Births may cause a tight intrauterine environment, causing pressure on the skull resulting in asymmetry. Intrauterine pressure/restrictive uterine environment may be due to the maternal pelvis condition, large baby, or unusual position in uterus.

3Sleeping Position

Consistently positioning a child’s head against a mattress or firm surface for a long period of time may cause flattening of the skull bones. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of infants with flattened heads since the American Academy of Pediatrics launched the “Back to Sleep Campaign” in 1992. It of the utmost importance that parents/caretakers frequently change the infants’ sleeping position so the baby does not turn their head in the same manner or to the same side. Additionally, Tummy time (when awake and supervised) is important to implement beginning at a few weeks of age as well.

4Torticollis

Tightening of one or both of the main neck muscles which causes the baby to turn and/or tilt the head in one position. This in turn can cause the flattening of the same side of the head. Torticollis is often associated with deformational Plagiocephaly since the baby cannot comfortably lie in all positions. Treatment with physical therapy and a home exercise program as soon as possible is usually necessary.

5Overuse of Carriers

These devices are great for occasional use but please do not substitute them for your baby’s sleeping area as there is no room for natural movement, which places your baby at risk for the development of deformational Plagiocephaly.