So I had read all of the literature and heard all of the warnings. I knew that I was supposed to alternate the side I put my little one’s head in the crib to encourage him to look in opposite directions (presuming, of course, that he would want to look towards the door and not the wall). I knew not to keep him in his car seat or bouncer for too long. I knew that he had to have ample amounts of tummy time. I knew it all.
I hadn’t anticipated that my little man would be born with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. Presumably, it had been there a while and caused my little man to have a fairly severe torticollis. He looked to the right. All. Of. The. Time. It was, effectively, his “resting” position. Probably the position he’d been in for who knows how long before he’d been born.
Worse still, he had a limited range of motion to the left…meaning that when I put him in the crib with the wall to his right in an effort to encourage him to look left…he just looked at the wall. When I started diapering him left-handed* to encourage him to look at me….he continued to look right at the wall. When I put ALL of his toys to his left? He kinda maybe looked left. For a bit.
So obviously, Boo developed a flat spot.
Like many babies, Boo had himself a pretty impressive bald spot where his head rubbed the most….it was also his flat spot (it’s strange how I so thoroughly dislike seeing pictures of that bald spot…I guess it’s a bit of a sore spot for me – pun intended).
I saw it happening. I talked to his doctor about it…but she wasn’t too concerned. She told me that once he managed to flip over on his own, spent more time on his belly and started sitting, it’d resolve itself.
And then one day my husband remarked offhandedly that the right side of Boo’s forehead was protruding more than the left. Like…a lot more. I freaked. I worried that I was deforming my baby. That I wasn’t doing enough to encourage him to look left and increase his range of motion. Which, of course, was poppycock.
By this time we were already seeing a physiotherapist for Boo Boo’s legs and she’d given me tips and exercises for his neck and flat spot, as well. I was already doing everything I was supposed to do. It just wasn’t having an effect yet, and I got worried. So Boo’s doctor gave us a referral to the plagiocephaly clinic at Ste-Justine’s hospital where he got his head measured (by laser, thank God), and a week or so later a custom helmet which was (again, thank God) covered by Medicare.
To measure his head, the technicians at Ste-Justine’s sat Boo in a Bumbo, put a tight cap on, and then scanned his head with a handheld laser. He looked so cute…kind of like a little garden gnome!
The helmet is a passive solution – the idea is that the inside of it rested flush against the areas of Boo’s head that were (for lack of a better term) misshapen, and left room elsewhere for his head to “grow into”. To accomplish this, he had to wear the helmet for 23 hours a day. His only break from it was bath time, and when I cleaned it with rubbing alcohol about 2-3 times a day.
At first I worried that the helmet was going to bother him and be uncomfortable. Turns out he barely even noticed it. He successfully wore it all day every day for about 3 months, at which point we transitioned him to wearing it at night only for another month. When we went on vacation at the end of July we dispensed with it altogether.
The helmet was so light that Boo Boo barely even noticed it was on….he went about all his usual activities – like trying to gum the kitchen table…
….and not being at all impressed with my attempts to get him to eat banana bits.
So I guess the million dollar question is….did it work? Maybe.
Boo got the helmet when he was 6 months old. The months following saw some huge leaps and bounds with regards to his mobility and, consequently, the amount of time he spent lying on his back. By the time he stopped wearing the helmet (just before his 10 months anniversary) the only time he ever spent lying on his back was when he was sleeping….and even then he usually turned to sleep on his side or stomach. So he was already providing his head ample opportunity to round itself out.
Boo chatting on his Fisher Price phone. You can see the velcro closure on the helmet – which wasn’t meant to tighten anything, but rather allowed us to open the helmet up wider to place it on Boo Boo’s head.
Personally I think the helmet, combined with Boo spending less and less time on his head, worked together to get us to where we are today. Is his head perfectly round, then? No. Is it better than before we got the helmet? Absolutely….it’s a rather nice, slightly asymmetrical head shape (perfect symmetry is creepy, anyway).
* A talent I retain to this day…I’m an ambidextrous diaper changer. Yay me!