Plagiocephalia is the distortion of the skull of the baby, been (in particular) characterized by an asymmetry of the cranium and the face. It can be caused by a stiff neck, congenital or acquired in the first days of life, but more often by an extended position on the back, the same side of the head contacting the mattress. This recommendation of the back position was strong because of the assumption of newborns sudden death by sleeping on the stomach. Actually it was proven that this sudden death is non idiopathic (it exists a known cause) and the positioning has no incidence, but that’s not our concern here.
Without treatment, it can evolve until the adulthood. Besides the aesthetics aspect, it causes distortions of the cranium and the face, what also deforms the jaw, with likely fatal influence on the occlusion, vision, hearing, suction, chewing, setting of the teeth, speaking. At the postural level, possible scoliosis, adaptive, but sometimes, unfortunately, compensatory, with different unwanted effects.
French studies demonstrated the outbreak of plagiocéphalie this last decade. Two Canadian studies showed that there were 46% babies concerned in 2013 vs 22% in 2004. More than twice within 10 years, figures are certainly similar in France, for information.
The recommendation of the positioning on the back is obviously a major cause, worse with the use of certain gadgets (sic) like side blocks, head blocks, “cocooning” mattresses which creates a bigger constriction of the baby, the part of the skull resting on the mattress will be even more and longer restrained.
But there are solutions, prevention being the first purpose, of course.
For the severe cases, a helmet, moulded in the shape of the baby’s skull can be envisaged, but the efficiency is strongly questioned; it doesn’t really make sense to handle a compression with another, even bigger, compression.
Chiropractic, physiotherapy (kinésithérapie in France) are more particularly going to work on the posture of the neck, spine, hips.
Osteopathy is going to have an even more global approach, connecting with the previous techniques, adding cranio-sacral therapy, external and possibly endo-oral techniques. With always the same principles, “test – correction – re-test”; this to close the debate about professional trainings, we are not opposed, we are complementary.
The preventive part, what is also curative, concerns the recommendations of positioning. It is not invasive and in accordance with the parents, especially, because the main people involved.
Change frequently the position, for example on the back at night (not to strike the susceptibilities), but inverting the bed side of the head every other night. So, the access of the parents will be on an alternative side, the babies head turns generally to the side of the person approaching. The day, to alternate the position on the side is not a problem; a newborn cannot turn on his own on the stomach, from foetal position, and anyway, that stomach position, in presence of parents is not a big deal. Alternate the port of the baby from one arm to the other during feeding, or simply to carry for cuddles. The parental contact is anyway the best medication.
Plagiocephalia is not a fatality and not irreversible either. Generally speaking, to show a baby to an Osteopathic Manual Practitioner (Ostéopathe for French people) for a check-up session, as it is for adults, will never harm. It will allow to see and feel if everything take space normally, from the embryological life to the development and growth; membranes, bones of the skull, the pond, the rhythms… And, in case of dysfunctions, digestive, sleep, postural, plagiocephalia for example, the professional can restore the required balances and refer objectively the patient to the specialized medical world if needed, while reassuring parents, worried about their possible responsibility in the future health of their child.