Should I get my Child a Helmet?

by Julie

Plagio…what? At three months old, it was determined that Will had plagiocephaly and torticollis. I was surprised at how much this diagnosis affected me. “It’s our fault,” I told my husband. “We put him in his rock n’ play too much. We should’ve held him more!” As usual, my husband was the calm one, and I was overreacting. We began physical therapy immediately with the hopes of correcting the problems without further intervention. After five sessions, I was an expert at the exercises : ) and decided to discontinue his therapy.

3 month old picture of Will's head

3 month old picture of Will’s head

Ball exercises at physical therapy

Ball exercises at physical therapy

Tummy time at physical therapy

Tummy time at physical therapy

Neck stretches at physical therapy

Neck stretches at physical therapy

His neck seemed to be getting stronger, but his head remained flat despite the fact that we were spending 50% of his waking time on his tummy. Against what the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends, our pediatrician advised having Will sleep on his belly. “But he loves sleeping on his back,” I told my pediatrician. Luckily, a friend (thanks Katie!) gave me great advice-start him sleeping on his back, and flip him over onto his belly once he is sound asleep. Slowly but surely, Will became a tummy sleeper, but I still was fearful of SIDS. I bought and returned the Angel Care Monitor, because I could never figure out if it was actually working or just easing my nerves.

Angel Care Baby Monitor

Angel Care Baby Monitor

My pediatrician also advised I contact Dr. Vicari, a pediatric plastic surgeon, who books up months in advance. I guess he is the “Guru” of flat head syndrome. We put ourselves on the cancellation list and we were able to get in a few weeks later. Dr. Vicari told me exactly what I knew, but didn’t want to hear. Against my husband’s wishes I paid for the $300 head scan, which wasn’t covered by insurance. I tearfully spoke to another family at the office whose son was getting his helmet off that day. They were reassuring and comforting, and convinced me I was doing the right thing.

Will's head dimensions based on the Star Scan

Will’s head dimensions based on the Star Scan

A bird's eye view of Will's head from the Star Scanner

A bird’s eye view of Will’s head from the Star Scanner

The next step was to get in touch with Rob Novak, a orthotics doctor with Lurie Children’s Hospital. Within two weeks, the helmet was created and Will was ready for his fitting.

Head shot at 5 1/2 months old

Head shot at 5 1/2 months old

Overhead picture of Will's head before the helmet

1st day with the helmet

1st day with the helmet

Day 5: Sleeping with his helmet on

Day 5: Sleeping with his helmet on

Day 10: playing with his helmet on

Day 10: playing with his helmet on

To our relief, Will has had no problems playing, eating, and sleeping with his helmet on. In fact, I don’t think he knows it’s there. What would you do if your child’s head was flat? Helmet or no helmet?