I know I’m jumping around a bit with this post, but it’s what’s happening now, and finding other blogs on this topic helped me. So if I can pay some of that forward, it’s worth sharing.
Jacob’s pediatrician pointed out that he had developed a flat spot on the back right side of his head at his four-month checkup. Hubby and I then descended into a shame spiral of shock and embarrassment that we missed it, panic that it was there in the first place, fear that we caused it, etc. Seriously. We turned into the seven dwarfs of parenting guilt.
“Just try to keep him off of it for a couple of months,” the pediatrician advised. “You can keep a wedge under that side of his mattress so it’s easier for him to turn his head the other way, and do a lot more tummy time. If that doesn’t fix it, you can always get a helmet.”
Sara the Hysterical Google Queen took over.
So I learned ALLLLLLL about plagiocephaly (flat head on one side), brachycephaly (flat back of the head, which I didn’t think was a concern, based on the pictures I found online and then compared frantically to Jacob’s head), and every other kind of cephaly there is (I was already a microcephaly expert from the single, non-Zika-infected mosquito bite I got while pregnant. Have I mentioned that I’m a hypochondriac?).
What did I learn? That repositioning could help and that this probably happened because he was such a great sleeper–which he did NOT inherit from me, the worst insomniac in the world. So because my perfect baby started sleeping through the night at two months old (don’t hate me), his little head grew crooked.
And a lot of nasty people on the internet said it only happens to parents who didn’t hold their babies enough. Guess what? I hold my baby all the freaking time. And this still happened.
But I’m Super Mom! I could fix this! I can fix anything if I try hard enough!
I repositioned like it was my job. For two months I barely slept, but not because Jacob, the most perfect baby in the world, was waking me up. No. I barely slept because I woke up every three minutes to make sure he wasn’t sleeping on his flat spot. I became an expert at flipping him over without waking him up. I joked I was going to patent a baby spatula for perfectly turned babies.
I bought seven, count them, SEVEN different types of flat head pillows, ranging from $15 to $110 each (I only bought one of the expensive ones). I sent him to daycare with one. I put one in his stroller. I put one on his changing table. I put one on his floor gym. But I only let him sleep on them for supervised naps while I stared at him the entire time to make sure he wouldn’t magically flip onto his belly (which he wasn’t doing yet) and suffocate.
I studied that head from every angle, trying to convince myself that I was seeing improvement. I wasn’t, but it also wasn’t getting worse. I will say that. The pillows do prevent it from getting worse.
And I kept Googling. But as we got closer to his six-month checkup and his flat spot hadn’t improved, I started worrying more. My baby was going to need a helmet. I could feel it.
One day, I took him for a long walk when his dad went out of town, and I took some pictures because he was so cute. And when I looked at the pictures, one eye looked bigger than the other. Cue the panic. I had read, in my frantic Googling, that plagiocephaly could cause facial asymmetry. (Note: we later learned he has no facial asymmetry. Literally, they measured digitally and there’s none at all. I am a crazy person. But in this case, the craziness was a good thing.)
Once I Googled the facial asymmetry with plagiocephaly though, I started finding another word a lot, which I had mostly ignored because I didn’t think it was an issue: torticollis.
Symptoms: head tilted in one direction with chin pointed toward another. Often causes difficulty breastfeeding on one side and difficulty looking in the direction of the head tilt. Rolling to one side only. A flat spot.
It was like one of those scenes in a movie where the protagonist figures out who the killer is. He hated breastfeeding on the right side, where he’d have to turn his head to the left. He only rolled to one side. And as I began scrolling through pictures in my phone, he was facing the same way in every one. Jacob had torticollis.
We took him to the pediatrician immediately, who wasn’t nearly as convinced as I was, but she did say it was time to visit the helmet place for an evaluation.
She wanted us to wait to see what the helmet people said about starting physical therapy, which I wasn’t comfortable with. Knowing that I’m my baby’s best advocate, I reached out to my network of moms and got a recommendation from a family friend to a WONDERFUL physical therapist who deals in infant torticollis.
Long story short, I think our pediatrician should have caught the torticollis (or at least mentioned it to us when she noticed the flat spot, because had I looked for that in pictures sooner, I would have spotted it. And I think dealing with the torticollis at four months would have helped the flat spot enough to potentially avoid the helmet), but it’s too late for that now.
I’ll do another post about the helmet situation (we’re in it now. It sucks, but we’ll deal), but trust your gut, mamas! If you think something is wrong, say something to your pediatrician. And if they won’t hear you out, go to a specialist. Jacob is doing AMAZING in physical therapy. The torticollis is now gone, we’re just working on some residual muscle strength issues in his shoulder, and in another few weeks, all of that should be absolutely perfect.
And if you want to learn from my experience, make sure you’re changing the direction that your baby sleeps in frequently starting at birth and doing lots of tummy time even if your baby hates it (and they ALL hate it!). And if you have to get a helmet, I promise, it’s not the end of the world.