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An Overview of Baby Head Shape
by Caroline Rhodes, P.T.
What are Plagiocephaly and Brachycephaly?
Plagiocephaly and Brachycephaly are terms that are used to describe a flat or misshapen
head. Plagiocephaly means that there is a flat spot on one side, on the back of the head. This
often causes the bones on the same side as the flat spot to move forward, resulting in an
asymmetrical head and face. The side with the flat spot will have an ear, forehead and cheek
bone that protrudes forward. Brachycephaly means that there is a flat spot in the center of the
back of the head. This condition is not usually characterized by asymmetry of the ears and facial
What causes a misshapen head?
Misshapen heads have become markedly more common, following the launch of the Back To
Sleep Program designed to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). There has been
around a 40% decrease in SIDS since infants have been put to sleep on their back rather than
Torticollis is another typical cause. This is used to describe a condition when a child has a
spasm in his neck and cannot turn his head equally in both directions, resulting in a preference to
look only one way. Torticollis needs to be corrected, as the head and face will be crooked.
There can be many reasons for this, and it is best to see a trained practitioner so the child can be
assessed, and treatment begin as soon as possible.
Another cause can be general misalignment of the body. There are various reasons for this,
including a large baby being born from a small maternal pelvis, or multiple infants (twins etc),
leading to crowding in the womb. Occasionally, one twin is more compressed than the other.
Sometimes a baby’s head is stuck in its mother’s pelvis or under her ribs, and the baby does not
have much freedom of movement. With one infant patient, it was possible to see where the
maternal ribs had pressed into the top of the baby’s head. When a baby has a twisted pelvis, the
head and neck will also be twisted; these are the basic bi