Flat Head Syndrome: Everything You Need To Know As A Mother

Written by Dr. Sintayehu Abebe on Fri, 08 December 2023

Key Highlights

  • Flat head syndrome, or positional plagiocephaly, is a common condition affecting 1 in 5 infants. It occurs when a baby's head develops a flat spot due to prolonged periods in the same position, such as lying on their back or in various devices.
  • Types of Flat Head Syndrome include Brachycephaly and Plagiocephaly.
  • Easily noticeable signs include a flatter head on one side, less hair on the flat side, and the appearance of the ear pushed forward on the flatter side.
  • The main cause is the baby's sleeping position, lying on their back for extended periods. Premature infants, multiple births, and torticollis (neck condition) are additional contributing factors.
  • No significant complications are expected, but severe cases left untreated may result in a persistently uneven head.
  • Prevention involves supervised tummy time, minimizing time in car seats and cribs, and holding the baby regularly.
  • Flat Head syndrome is usually a temporary and cosmetic issue, not impacting brain development.
  • Early intervention and proper management, including the outlined steps, can successfully treat most cases.
  • Parents and caregivers are encouraged to consult with a doctor for advice and recommendations if concerned about flat head syndrome in their baby. 

What Is Flat Head Syndrome And Can My Baby Have It?

Did you know that born infants can develop a condition where one part of their head flattens due to lying on that side for a long time? It is known as a flat head syndrome and it’s a common disorder affecting 1 in 5 infants at some point.

Flathead syndrome, also known as positional plagiocephaly, is a condition that affects the shape of a baby's head. It occurs when a baby's head forms a flat spot, usually on one side or the back of the head, due to lying in the same position for an extended time. This can happen when a baby spends a lot of time lying on their back or in a certain position in a car seat, swing, bouncy seat, stroller, or carrier.

The doctor usually just checks the baby’s head and movements to diagnose the condition. Let’s look at the types, causes, treatments, and more.

Types Of Flat Head Syndrome

Types Of Flat Head Syndrome

There are two types of flat head syndrome that your child can develop. This can be:

  • Brachycephaly: In this type, the back of the head becomes flat. This, in turn, leads the head to widen, and rarely the forehead bulges out too.
  • Plagiocephaly: In this, the head only flattens on one side. This leads to the head looking asymmetrical. In rare cases, the face and forehead bulge on the flat side.

Signs And Symptoms

A flat head syndrome is usually easy to notice. Some signs you may see are:

  • The infant’s head is flatter on one side.
  • The infant has less hair on the flat side.
  • If you look down at the baby’s head, you may notice the ear looks like it’s pushed forward on the flatter side.

Causes Of Flat Head Syndrome

The main cause of the flat head syndrome is the baby’s sleeping position. These babies lie on their backs for several hours every day which can lead to a flat head. Some other causes include:

  • Premature infants: They are more likely to develop flat head syndrome because their skulls are softer compared to full-term babies. They also spend more time lying on their backs due to their medical needs.
  • Multiple births: A flat head syndrome can occur due to pressure on the fetus’s skull from a twin. It can also occur due to pressure from the mother’s pelvis.
  • Torticollis: This is a neck condition that causes neck muscles to tighten. This, in turn, makes it difficult for infants to turn their heads leading to the flat head syndrome.

Treatment For Flat Head Syndrome

Treatment For Flat Head Syndrome

The flat head syndrome is usually not a cause for concern and heals over time. In addition, it does not affect development and does not cause any pain. Treatment options for flat head syndrome include:

  • Repositioning the head: This involves changing your infant’s position when your baby is sleeping on their back. Ensure your baby sleeps on the rounded side of the head and the flat side facing up. Avoid the use of wedge pillows to keep your baby in a single position.
  • Tummy time: This involves placing your infant on their tummy while they are awake during the day. This should always be done under your supervision. Benefits of tummy time include:
  • It encourages an infant’s discovery and learning of the world.
  • It aids in the normal shaping of the back of the head.
  • It helps infants strengthen their neck muscles and learn to push up on their arms.
  • Hold your infant more often: You can limit the time your baby spends on their back by holding them. This can take some pressure off the head and help with flat head syndrome.
  • Physical therapy: If your infant also suffers from torticollis a physical therapist can help with an exercise plan to improve the condition.
  • Corrective helmets: Your doctor may prescribe a helmet for your baby for flat head syndrome. This helmet is tighter on the rounded side of the head and looser on the flatter side of the head. This causes the head to grow on the flatter side.

There are no possible complications that may develop due to this condition. However, if the condition is severe and left untreated the baby will continue to have an uneven head. The best way to prevent this condition is to allow your baby to have supervised tummy time, reduce the time your baby spends in the car seats or cribs, and hold your baby as much as you can because they won’t be this little forever.


A flat head syndrome is a common and temporary condition. It is usually a cosmetic issue and does not typically affect a baby's brain development.

However, it is important to address it early on to prevent it from becoming severe. There are several steps that parents and caregivers can take to prevent and treat flat head syndrome as we have read. If you are concerned that your baby may have flat head syndrome, it is important to speak with your doctor for advice and recommendations on the best course of action.

With early intervention and proper management, most cases of the flat head syndrome can be successfully treated.


Dr. Sintayehu Abebe

Dr Sintayehu Abebe is a Consultant Internist and Interventional Cardiologist at the Addis Ababa University. The young and energetic Dr Abebe who is always keen on learning new things is also President of the Ethiopian Society of Cardiac Professionals (ESCP).

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Current Version

Dec, 08 2023

Written By

Dr. Sintayehu Abebe