Reader Nickie writes in today:
Wondering if you can clear up the questions over helmeting? Why is helmeting only reccommended for severe plagiocephaly? Does mild or moderate plagiocephaly correct itself as a child approaches adulthood? Please clarify this!! There is such different advice from doctors vs. the internet.
More and more babies have flat heads these days. The official term is plagiocephaly. And the reason, primarily, is that babies are sleeping on their backs to help reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). There are also handy infant carriers and seats that allow a baby who can't sit up yet to sit/recline comfortably without mom or dad doing the holding–again this means lots of time resting on the back of the head.
Tummy time is encouraged to reduce the amount of time spent in that one position. It also strengthens the neck and shoulder muscles–key for rolling over and holding the head up.
If you are aggressive about tummy time, and keep your baby off the back of his head during his wakeful hours, you can usually avoid severe plagiocephaly. And the good news is that a child's head shape changes quite a bit in the first year of life…and even up to age 7. So, if even if your child has mild to moderate plagiocephaly, making changes in what you do and waiting it out usually fixes the problem. No helmet required.
Helmets only appear to be useful in cases of severe plagiocephaly. Otherwise, your outcome is about the same, helmet or not.