They are kind, loving parents who only want the best for their child, but researchers have found what they are doing may be putting their baby’s lives in danger.
A study, in Child: Care, Health and Development has revealed that new parents are ignoring guidelines designed to save lives and instead doing “anything” they can to treat what they believe is flattened head syndrome of their newborn including using pillows, dangerous home made devices while seeing unqualified experts who promise to fix their newborn’s skulls without proper qualifications.
The condition, which affects around 20 per cent of babies, is called plagiocephaly, a skull deformation that can either be on one side of a baby’s head or the whole back of it.
In extreme cases the flattened surface of the head may last for a lifetime if not prevented.
Via Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne.
Associate Professor Alexandra Martiniuk from The George Institute for Global Health at the University of Sydney studied families in Sydney and Canada after becoming worried about what she saw was an increasing number of parents ignoring SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) guidelines in the quest to ‘fix’ their baby’s head.
“Flat head is concerning for parents” Professor Martiniuk said “because it affects how their child’s looks - now and in the future. Some parents also believe that flat head affects their child’s development.
Alarmingly she saw parents judging flat head as “a more real threat than cot death.”
Parents judge flat head as “a more real threat than cot death.” Image Stock.
Neurosurgeon Joseph Piatt, chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP), has previously expressed a similar view telling Healthland “The AAP perspective on this is that babies with funny-shaped heads are better than dead babies, from a public-health standpoint.”
In an increasing trend in Australia Professor Martiniuk found when parents noticed a flat spot developing “they stopped following SIDS safe sleeping guidelines.” The study found that parents were “willing to do anything” to prevent plagiocephaly including using products or sleeping positions that are contraindicated under SIDS guidelines.
Since the incredible success of the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign – starting in 1992 - where babies are encouraged to be placed on their backs to sleep to reduce SIDS, the prevalence of positional skull deformation has risen ‘exponentially in developed countries’ say researchers.
1-2% of babies are prescribed orthotic helmets.Via IStock.
Flat head syndrome is now the most common reason for referral to many craniofacial centres - where in more severe cases of flattened head - about 1-2% of babies are prescribed orthotic helmets.
Frighteningly the study found once either a concern or the discovery of a flat spot occurred, the majority of parents stopped adhering to all those guidelines they had diligently followed.
Parents ignored the advice about not sleeping with any pillows, blankets, bumpers, lambs’ wool or toys in the sleeping area, avoiding devices that restrict baby’s head or movement – and instead they bought dangerous ‘pillows’ and devices or placed their infant in potentially dangerous sleeping positions - like on their tummy, or with their cot propped up with towels to treat their baby’s flat head .