proof parents can’t win: For years, it's been hammered into parents that they should put their babies to bed on
their backs. This effort was hailed as a lifesaver, and linked to a 50 percent
decrease in infant mortality from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However,
this good news does come with some bad. Since babies’ skull plates aren’t fully
grown, their heads have “soft spots.” The result: positional plagiocephaly, a condition where an
infant’s head becomes flat or otherwise oddly shaped.
According to a new study of 440 infants, 47 percent of babies ages 7 to 12 weeks
had this condition. If flat spots exist on the back of the head, they’re “signs that the baby has
not been given enough opportunities for repositioning” to prevent pressure on
the flat areas and gradually correct the head shape, says lead study author Aliyah Mawji, an
assistant professor of nursing at Mount Royal University in Alberta, Canada.
course, flat spots are far preferable to SIDS in the grand scheme of things.
Still, though, head shape is kind of important. So what do you do? For one,
experts recommend more “tummy time” when the infant is awake, and in the
presence of a parent. This not only keeps flat spots from forming but helps
develop strong neck and shoulder muscles (hello, crawling). Parents can also
change the direction their baby lies in the crib or change the location of the
crib every week or so, since this will encourage babies to turn their heads in
various directions to, say, see the door.