Positioning for Infants 101

Recent statistics show that 1 in 10 babies have plagiocephaly, or flatness to one side of their head. Since 1992 when the American Academy of baby on tummyPediatrics launched the “back to sleep” campaign, cases of SIDS have dramatically decreased. However, cases of plagiocephaly, or flat head, have increased. With babies spending so much of their day on their backs, in swings, car seats and bouncy chairs, babies aren’t given the proper tummy time to let their head naturally round out.

Positioning your infant to switch the direction that they are laying is recommended to prevent flatness to one side of their head. Simple positioning things that parents of little ones can do at home are:

Ways To position Your Infant:

  • Providing ample tummy time daily: start with just a few minutes and work your way up from there. By 5-6 months, aim for ½ of play time to be on the tummy.
  • Alternate the hip or arm where you carry your baby. This way, they have equal opportunity to look both ways and keep their neck muscles flexible.
  • Alternate the end of the crib each night where you place your baby to sleep. This way, if they are always looking at one part of the room, ie a nightlight, window or door, they will have a different part of their head that they are sleeping on each night.
  • Alternate the end of the changing table where you change your baby.
  • Limit use of carseats, swings, bouncy seats or any device where a child is “contained.” Excessive time in these “containers” can cause a flat head on one side and limit gross motor development.
  • When your child is in a car seat, a cushioned head support will help keep some pressure off the back of their head.

It is normal for your babies’ head shape to not be completely round following a vaginal delivery; however, head shapes usually round out from the pressures of delivery within the first 6 weeks of life. It is important to use the positioning techniques above to ensure that your baby has a nice round head shape as they continue to develop.

If you are concerned about your babies’ head shape, talk to a physical therapist or your pediatrician. Physical therapy can help round out your child’s skull and help with gross motor development.

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