How We Avoided the Baby Helmet and Fixed Our Baby’s Flat Head

How we corrected our babys flat head without a helmet

Big disclaimer for our story: I am not a doctor and cannot suggest you use any of the methods or products listed in this post. Information shared is not intended as medical advice.  If you are concerned with your child’s head shape, consult with a physician.

**See September 2017 update on Emmy at the end of this post!

I’ll never forget the moment that the scan of my child’s head popped up on the screen. HOW had I not noticed how flat it was? And it wasn’t only flat, it was kind of crooked. The mom guilt started to wash over me instantly. The pediatric therapist who had taken the images of Emmy’s head asked if I had noticed her favoring one side of her head while sleeping. Um, no? Well maybe? I couldn’t be sure.  I mean I had watched her sleep so many nights, how had I not noticed something like this? Turns out that Emmy had a tightness in her neck that caused her to favor facing her left side while snoozing. This caused her brain to grow through the path of least resistance, resulting in a sort of bulge on the right side of her head. The photo below compares a normal babies head shape to Emmy’s head. It also shows that I have one chuuuuuunky baby 🙂

How We Avoided The Baby Helmet And Fixed Our Baby's Flat Head

The pictures spoke for themselves. Something had to be done to help our sweet girl. It was recommended that Emmy be placed in a Doc Band, aka, a baby helmet. The band would be worn for a minimum of 6 weeks and a maximum of 3 months. We contacted our insurance company to see what our out of pocket cost would be… a whopping $2,800! The good news was the cost would go towards our deductible. Bad news- there was only a month and a half-ish left in the year! While we were willing to do what we needed to for Emmy, we also didn’t want to be rash with our spending. We consulted with the PT and asked if waiting until the first of the year to start Emmy in her band would be a bad idea. He advised us that an additional time would not cause great harm, but he suggested we do some exercises to help Emmy in the mean time. I left the doctor’s office that day with a list of instructions on how to help Emmy get straightened out. I was a mama on a mission!

Tummy time

Before the suggestion to put Emmy in a helmet, we did about 20 minutes of tummy time a day. I had assumed this was enough. When I asked her doctor how much we should be doing moving forward he responded with “25 hours a day is too much”. So from there on out, almost every minute that Emmy was not sleeping or nursing was spent on her tummy. Like alot of babies, Emmy was not a fan of just plain old tummy time on the floor. Her PT had advised that any position where Emmy’s head was going against gravity would be beneficial to her. So any time at home was spent rotating between a few different “tummy stations”. I would set her up on the boppy pillow with a books and toys close by.  When that got boring I would move her to where she was laying on her tummy on top of my chest and we would make silly faces at each other. I would also cross my legs and lay her across them while we read a book. I would carry her around the house superman style.  We were constantly moving from room to room to keep things interesting. Tummy time outside on a blanket was a huge hit and she could usually do that for 20 minutes straight! We also started using this water mat which was just fascinating for Emmers. Mirrors like the one below are also a great way to keep a cranky tummy time baby occupied:

tummy time to fix baby's flat head

Emmy never spent another minute in her baby swing. We had previously been using a travel system for her stroller but switched to one that she could sit up in if we were on the go versus laying in her car seat.  We made an effort to make sure every minute was beneficial to her head.  Her muscles did need a break every now and then and that is when we would move to neck stretches. But besides that, it was tummy time all day, every day.

Tummy Time On Vacation in Florida

Tummy Time On Crossed Legs

Tummy Time Outside

Neck Stretches

The tightness in Emmy’s neck the caused her to favor one side needed to be loosened. Luckily for Emmy, this was easily done during play time or by mom and dad holding her. The play time stretch: I would lay Emmy on her back and place her favorite toy on the right side of her body. I would sit on her right side too to keep her neck stretched in that direction. We would play like this for 15 minutes or so before rolling over and going back to tummy time. This was done multiple times a day.

The Football Hold: We were able to hold Emmy a certain way that would really get her neck muscles stretched out. Unfortunately I do not have a photo of me doing this with Emmy, but I do have this wonderful example photo the doctor provided me with. I will say that this one takes practice. Jay and I would take turns holding Emmy while the other one looked at this picture to make sure it was being done correctly. We would do this one a few times a day, but it was the least performed exercise over the month and a half.

How We Corrected Our Baby's Head Shape Without a Hemlet

Crib Adjustments

I did alot of research in the days after seeing Emmy’s scan on products we could purchase to help her. I read countless reviews and looked through a ton of before and after photos. We ended up purchasing a Merry Shop Head Shaping Pillow. Now before anyone freaks out that I put a pillow in my child’s bed, let me give you some facts. Emmy was 5 months old when we began using this product. She has yet to roll over and she hardly even moves once she hits the mattress. If she was a busy body type sleeper, I would probably have decided against this product. Second, the pillow is made from a heavy memory foam type material that caused it to stay put pretty well.  We took the pillow with us on long car rides, on vacations, basically every where that Emmy would be sleeping. An alternative that Emmy’s pediatrician recommended was taking a roll of foam like this one and cutting a small area to go under her crib sheet where she lays her head. He suggested to put the bumpy side down and this would help correct her flatness. UPDATE: I received an email from a reader who shared how she was able to keep her son out of a helmet as well using this pillow. Just wanted to share an alternative to those looking to fix the problem at home! Here is a picture of the pillow we purchased  in Emmy’s crib.

How we avoided the baby helmet and fixed our baby's flat head

As soon as the New Year began, we scheduled a follow up appointment for Emmy. The doctor  took one look at her head and told us a helmet was not necessary. I almost cried tears to joy! He advised us that her head still had a mild flat spot, but nowhere near severe enough to need correction through the Doc Band. He advised we continue our efforts we had been making over the past month in order to make sure we stayed on the path towards a round little baby head.

Is a helmet right for your child?

If your baby has been recommended for a Doc Band or another form of baby helmet, know that so many other moms are in your same position! in 1994, the Back Is Best campaign was launched by the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the US National Institutes of Health. Before this time, it was common for mothers to place babies on their stomach to sleep in order to prevent choking on spit up. Since the campaign, there has been a HUGE increase in the baby helmets. There is still alot of debate on the subject and whether or they are completely necessary. Some argue that it is strictly cosmetic, while the doctors who prescribe the bands usually cite scary issues such as jaw and nasal complications as the child grows. I know many people whose children have been in or are currently in a Doc Band. I also know many mothers who were told it was needed and went completely against the decision and their kids are still cute as can be. That’s the hard part about being a mom. The decision is yours to make for your family. We decided we would do the helmet but at a time that made sense financially for our family. In the mean time we did what the doctors suggested and the results were more than we could have ever imagined! So if you are here searching for an answer on what do to about fixin’ your kids flat, I don’t have one for you. Know that I, like many other mother in this situation, spent many nights lying awake wondering what to do. The decision you make for your child will be the right one.

I’d love to hear from you in regards to the baby helmet discussion! Please feel free to comment below or email me at caroline@swaddlesnbottles.com

**UPDATE- Emmy is now 13 months old and, as any mother would who has been in our position, I constantly analyze her head shape. I am happy to see that we do NOT regret avoiding the helmet at all. She was 6 months old when we were told the helmet was not needed due to her head shape improving, but I don’t think I stopped loosing sleep over it until she was at least 10 or 11 months. I am so pleased with the shape. You can check out a ton of pictures of her on my Instagram to see!

Thank you to everyone who emails me in regards to this post! I know the news of a helmet can be scary… just know that whatever path you end up taking, you baby will love you all the same and still be cute as can be!

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10 thoughts on “How We Avoided the Baby Helmet and Fixed Our Baby’s Flat Head

  1. Elizabeth Rishel says:

    I can’t thank you enough for posting this and sharing your experience. My son had his 4 month checkup yesterday and like you, I didn’t notice the flat spot until it was pointed out to me. I cried, still feel guilty at moments, researched right away on how to prevent a helmet and fix the flat spot, and hit the ground running today with new exercises and more tummy time. I’ll be following your lead with a lot of what you did. Thrilled to finally ready a blog post where something worked! Congrats mama!

    • Caroline @ Swaddles n' Bottles says:

      Hi Elizabeth! I am so so so happy you found the post! I’m sorry you had to experience the mom guilt moment, I’ve been there and it’s tough. But it sounds like you are a mama on a mission to help your little guy out! Have you decided completely against the helmet or are you doing a trail period to see if it can be corrected without? Either way I’m sure you are doing what’s best for him and your fam. Thank you for reaching out!

      • Elizabeth Rishel says:

        The helmet will be discussed between 6-9 months if it doesn’t get any better. So for now, we are hitting the ground running so that the conversation hopefully doesn’t have to happen. We shall see!

  2. Mallory Martin says:

    So thankful for this post! My son is 3 months old and has developed a flat spot on the side of his head from always looking to the right. I’ve felt so bad about it because no matter what I try at night to have him sleep looking to the left it doesn’t seem to work. He was in NICU for 8 days after birth and was so used to sleeping on the right side of his head in there, so now he moves it to the right side every chance he gets. We see pedi for 4 month checkup in 3 weeks so I’m hoping she can give us some pointers a well! Thank you for sharing your experience!

  3. Amanda says:

    This post gives me some hope but I am still worried that it may be too late. My baby is already close to 6 months old. How old was your baby when you started this regime?

    • Caroline @ Swaddles n' Bottles says:

      Our first appointment with the Doctor was in November 2016 so she would have been around 4 months. From what the doctor told me, 6 months isn’t too late, but the head does start to harden around that time so if they do go into a helmet, it may be longer than if they were to do it around 3-4 months. This was scary for us too! We knew we were going to be getting very close to the 6 month mark by waiting and attempting to fix on our own.

  4. Ronny says:

    Fantastic post. I wish I would have found a post like this when my son was 3 months old. He was diagnosed with torticollis and brachycephaly at 4 months old and so he spent 12 months in a DOC band and still has noticeable flatness on the back of his head and at this point (20 months) there wont be any further improvements. I wish I would have known a year and a half ago what I know today so posts like this one are extremely important for the parents that can still do something about it.

  5. Michelle Keller says:

    Thank you!!!! Ordering the pillow and some additional tummy time stuff for centers next week. Just had tongue tie appointment and they mentioned it so I am being proactive before her 4 month appointment in a few weeks. This is super helpful.

  6. Chelsie says:

    Thankful for this post. I feel so guilty for letting my baby’s head develop a flat spot and I want to do everything I can to reverse it. I was curious what type of stroller system you switched to and if you used the foam pillow in it.

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