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A member asked:

Do babies get flat spots on their heads if they sleep on their backs?

15 doctor answers24 doctors weighed in
Dr. Michael Pappas
Pediatrics 24 years experience
No: Flat spots on babies' heads do not occur because they sleep on their backs, but may occur if they spend most of their day in the same position. It's very important for babies to strengthen their neck/back muscles to help with head control and movement. Placing your baby on his/her stomach and allowing him/her to try and raise the head will help with muscles strength and head movement/positioning.
Dr. Sue Hall
Dr. Sue Hallanswered
Pediatrics 39 years experience
Yes: Yes, this is a definite possibility, but it does not always occur. The most concerning situation is when a baby prefers to turn his head to one side or the other each time he sleeps, which leads to asymmetric flattening of the back - side of the head. This is called deformational plagiocephaly. Your doctor may recommend the baby wear a helmet to reshape his head while it can still be molded.
Dr. Jeffrey Min
Specializes in Pediatrics
No: No, normally just sleeping on their back does not cause a flat head. If the head stays in the same position or turned to the same side all the time, that is more likely to cause a flat head. Best to reposition your babies head frequently and give them tummy time while awake to minimize the chances of having a flat head.
Dr. Kevin Windisch
Pediatrics 26 years experience
Yes: If left on their back too much of the day it can deform the baby's head, a situation called positional plagiocephaly. This can be avoided by including daily tummy time.
Dr. Cory Annis
Internal Medicine and Pediatrics 30 years experience
Yes: Yes, if they don't move their head from side to side. To prevent this, alternate which side the baby's head is turned toward each time you lay him down. If you are unable to turn his head easily to one side or the other, consult your pediatrician.
Dr. Jonathan Jassey
Pediatrics 18 years experience
Yes: Yes we see that a lot more nowadays since pediatricians recommending the back to sleep campaign. But the head is remold able in the first yr of life so good chance it won't stay that way. If severe flattening then might need a helmet.
Dr. Victoria Acharya
Specializes in Pediatrics
No: Babies can get flat heads if they lay on their backs most of the time, which is why we recommend daily "tummy time" by one month. Start with a few minutes each day -- babies especially enjoy being on your chest looking at your face. Besides preventing flat heads, it helps babies become strong enough to crawl. (all babies lose hair on the back of their head about 3 mo -- back sleepers or not.).
Dr. Robert Kwok
Pediatrics 34 years experience
Yes: Babies who sleep on their backs will have a flatter back-of-the-head than babies of 20 years ago, when they were sleeping on their tummies. A little bit of flatness is now the new "normal". However, if a baby sleeps only on one part of the head, and doesn't move his head around much when sleeping, he might develop an excessively flat area. It is a cosmetic concern, since the brain inside is ok.
Dr. Julia Sundel
Pediatrics 19 years experience
Yes: Some babies develop a flattened head (positional plagiocephaly) due to spending a lot of time on their backs. The soft bones of the scalp facilitate brain growth during the first year and can be molded during this time. Make sure to rotate sleeping positions and give your baby supervised tummy time while awake.
Dr. Terri Graham
Pediatrics 32 years experience
Sometimes. Some babies move their heads frequently, thereby don't seem to get the flattened head.
Jun 27, 2012
Dr. Kevin Rodbell
Pediatrics 19 years experience
No: For the first 3 years, your baby's head is constantly changing shape. Newborns tend to lie on their backs, but as they begin to sit, crawl, and walk, the head grows into the new upright posture. Some babies do develop a "flat spot, " but by the time it's noticeable, the head is already growing back into shape. In truth, most adults' heads are somewhat flat on the back --just covered with hair!
Dr. Kevin Rodbell
Pediatrics 19 years experience
No: If you think your baby's head is misshapen--more than just somewhat flat on the back--see your doctor. Certain medical condition can cause abnormal head growth. Serious underlying conditions are rare, but can usually be detected by a careful physical examination, or by consecutive exams over a period of weeks to months. Sometimes it's useful for parents to compare to their own baby pictures.
Dr. Daniel Rudolph
Pediatrics 30 years experience
Yes: With the new recommendations to keep babies sleeping on their back only, we are seeing more flat spots on their heads due to the constant pressure. The good news is that most of the time this is reversible. As a baby starts sitting up, has more awake belly time, and the like this takes the pressure off the head so that it can reshape itself. Fortunately only a few babies need actual treatment.
Dr. Laura Webb
Pediatrics 14 years experience
Yes: But these flat spots aren't dangerous. You can lessen the degree of flatness by making sure your baby turns its head both directions. An easy way to do this is to alternate which side is the head of the bassinet or crib. Babies will generally look towards light, so alternating the head side will cause them to sleep with their head turned each direction.
Dr. Pamela Lindor
Pediatrics 33 years experience
Yes: Possibly. Because we know it is safest for babies to sleep on their backs, we have seen an increase in the number of babies with "flat spots" on the back of their heads. Make sure your baby is put in different positions to sit and sleep in the first 4-6 months. Encourage her to look in both directions. Head shape continues to round out until about one year, so most of these "flat spots" go away!
Dr. Pamela Lindor
Pediatrics 33 years experience
Sometimes!: Many babies get flattening of the back of the back of the head by about age 4-6 months! this usually corrects itself but if it seems severe, ask your pediatrician. It can be treated with a molding helmet.
Last updated Dec 7, 2020


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