In the 90s, as part of a campaign to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, parents were urged to place their babies on their backs when sleeping.
It was successful, but it had unintended consequences. More babies are experiencing plagiocephaly – the misshaping of the head.
Six-month-old Kaydence Hershman is a bundle of joy. But early on, her parents noticed that something was not quite right.
“Her head every week was becoming more and more misshaped,” said her mother, Kristina Netherlain. “The symmetry in her face was changing very fast. Her jawline was flattening, this eye was getting smaller, this ear was coming forward.”
Kaydence has flat head syndrome, also known as plagiocephaly. The numbers have risen dramatically in part because parents are placing babies on their back when they sleep to reduce the risk of SIDS.
As a result, “babies spend a significant more amount of time on their backs, causing this flathead shape,” said Katie Stalnaker, a clinician at Cranial Technologies.
She said if the problem gets worse and goes untreated, it could lead to other health issues down the line, such as, “Jawline issues such as TMJ or underbite, eye and ear misalignment in addition to a concern of the airway passage potentially being shortened, causing sleep apnea or swallowing issues.".
The good news is it can be fixed.At St. Joseph hospital, a clinic addresses the problem through infant helmets that mold the baby’s head, called DOC Bands.