October 30, 2001
Most parents know that the safest way to put their baby to sleep is on their back. Babies who sleep on their backs are much less likely to die of the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Babies who always sleep with their head to the same side can develop flat spots. This handout tells you how to prevent this from happening.
What is SIDS?
SIDS is when a baby dies suddenly and unexpectedly·for no clear reason, even after an investigation. Babies who die of SIDS are usually under a year old. SIDS is sometimes called crib death.
Why do some babies develop flat spots on their head?
Babies skulls are very soft, and the bones can be affected by pressure. Babies also have weak neck muscles. Because of this, they tend to turn their head to one side when placed on their back.
If babies always turn their head to the same side, the skull may flatten. This is known as a 'flat head'. The medical term for this is positional plagiocephaly.
A little bit of flattening goes away on its own. More serious flattening may be permanent, but it will not affect a baby·s brain or development.
Can a baby's flat head be prevented?
Yes. A simple way to prevent your baby from getting a flat head is to change the position of the baby's head each day.
Because babies like to have something interesting to look at, they tend to turn their head toward the room rather than toward the wall. This way they can see you as you come and go.
how you can change the position of your baby·s head while
What else can I do to prevent my baby getting a flat head?
What else can I do to help reduce the risk of SIDS?
For more information:
Health Canada: www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hppb/childhood-youth/cyfh/sids/
SIDS Foundation: www.sidsfoundation.org
Caring for Kids (Canadian Paediatric Society): www.caringforkids.cps.ca
information was developed by the Canadian Paediatric Society
May be reproduced without permission and shared with patients and their families.
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Last Reviewed: January 30, 2003