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Thursday
Dec082011

Flat Head & Twisted Neck: Words of Advice from an Occupational Therapist

Recently I head the pleasure to speak with Jennifer Todd-Barnard of Baby Begin, LLC. Jennifer is a pediatric occupational therapist who specializes in working with infants with Plagiocephaly (flat head) and Torticollis (twisted neck) as well as infants with reflux and other conditions. Jennifer offers some great advice for new parents!

1. Tell me about you. I am a pediatric Occupational Therapist with a passion for babies!

2. What is "flat head" and "twisted neck"? Plagiocephaly (flat head) is a very common condition that newborns are getting, mainly because they are sleeping on their backs. It can be mild or severe and often affects even the face. You only have a short window of opportunity to improve it (up to 18 months of age) and then it is permanent. But the good thing is- it is preventable! Torticollis (twisted neck) is a tightness on one side of the neck that causes a baby to tilt their head and prefer to rotate in one direction. It should be addressed immediately by a qualified Occupational or Physical Therapist. It is usually caused from in-utero crowding/constraint. If left untreated, it can cause skull/facial deformities and developmental delays.

3. How can a parent recognize them? When the baby is born, you really need to watch for a turn preference. If the baby always turns in the same direction and resists turning the other way, one side of the neck is probably tighter than the other. You should also monitor the shape of the baby's head by looking at it from above, watching for any flattening or asymmetries. Some babies are even born with a misshapen skull.

4. What can a parent do to prevent or help them?  Encourage lots and lots of tummy time (from day 1) when the baby is awake and supervised. Limit time in containers (swings, bouncy seats, car seats) to 3 hrs or less a day. Reposition the baby frequently - hold her on both sides, burp her on both shoulders, switch sides of the crib, etc. Be conscious of repetitive positions. And don't forget to address any concerns with your pediatrician and ask for assistance from a therapist.

5. How do you help parents and babies in your therapy? We know that with just a few minor changes in a baby's day, a parent can prevent Plagiocephaly. We do a lot of educating the community. We go to the baby's home and work with the parents on repositioning strategies and effectively treating the Torticollis with experienced therapists. We also work on reshaping the skull so the baby can avoid a helmet or further skull deformities. We are seeing a 70% success rate if the baby is referred to us before 3 months of age. That means lots of round heads, which, of course we love!

6. How do you use Baby Stay Asleep in our therapy? We are encouraged by the ways we can use the Baby Stay Asleep. It offers a safe way to reposition the baby off of the flattened area of the skull, thus improving the head shape very quickly. All other positioners have been taken off the market, which made our job a lot more difficult!  This specific positioner has made a world of difference for our patients. We also have a lot of babies with reflux. Being able to put the baby in the crib (not a container) AND being able to position their head at the same time is so nice. It really works and our families are so excited to have a viable option for both. Great design and easy to use.

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April 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

As a pediatric physical therapist, I was concerned positioning wedges were taken off the market for infants because they were helpful for babies with torticollis and plagiocephaly. When one of my students showed me the Baby Stay Asleep, I was ecstatic because it allowed the baby safe positioning away from the flat area of the head. Now we are trying it with babies in our outpatient clinic with reported positive feedback from parents. Thank you for providing a needed positioner for a therapeutic reason!

January 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMarybeth Barkocy, PT, DPT

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