One day I noticed that my 4 month olds head seemed a little misshapen. It looked like the left side of his head bumped out a little more in the back than the right side did. I didn’t know if I was crazy and making it up, until I brought it up to my husband and he agreed. We kept an eye on it and at his next doctors appointment we asked her about it and she referred us to a physical therapist. The physical therapist said he had had torticollis, which is basically a stiff neck where the neck muscle on one side is tighter than the other. This is most likely caused by his rather large birth size, 10lbs 11oz and 22 inches, and running out of room in the womb. We started to go to PT weekly and did stretches with him at home daily, which together helped his range of motion immensely.
So then we were left with this misshapen head, more commonly known as plagiocephaly. We had to decide if we wanted to get him helmeted to help try improve his head shape and redirect the quickly growing skull. After much thought and discussion we decided against it. There were numerous reasons for making the decision we did, but one of them definitely was the thought of our little baby wearing a helmet for 3 months. And I'm sure subconsciously, "what would others think?" was another reason. … A few days later we put a baseball hat on him and it immediately shifted a little bit. My husband and I looked at each other and immediately knew that we had to change our decision and proceed with the helmet. It’s a one-time deal. Around 12 months of age the 5 plates of the skull are nearly fused together, at which point you really diminish your ability to do anything to try to improve the head shape. So we got Colin fitted, chose the color blue to match his eyes, and we waited. In the meantime, I ordered stickers from Bling Your Band to decorate his helmet. If he had to wear a helmet, why not make the best of it, right? One of the ones I ordered had mustaches and the slogan "if you mustache, i'm just fixin' my flat" on the back. A few weeks later it was ready and ya know what? He actually looked pretty cute with it on!
Over a week period, you get your little one used to the helmet by building up the time that you wear it. He had to wear the helmet for 23hrs a day, 7 days a week for 3 months. He quickly got used to wearing it and even liked it. When he finally got it off 3 months later, there was about a week where he had bruises on his forehead from bumping his head. We missed the helmet! ;)
So as we were going through this whole process, I kept trying to think of why this was now "a thing". Growing up I never remember seeing any kids with helmets. Why is this now a growing issue? And than a lightbulb went off!!
BACK TO SLEEP! In 1992, the AAP recommended babies sleep on their back in an attempt to reduce the risk of sids. In 1994 the "back to sleep" campaign was launched to raise awareness, later changed to "safe to sleep". Studies show that the recommended change reduced SIDS by 50%! It's awesome that making such a small change could have such an impact on such a devastating and tragic event. Also with the "back to sleep" campaign, "tummy to play" was also encouraged, under supervision of course! "Tummy to play" helped babies to strengthen their neck muscles to gain more control of their heads.
Hindsight is 20/20, right? Looking back at pictures, we now see that he favored looking to the right. I was also unaware of all the benefits of tummy time and would have done it a lot more often than I did. That being said, we obviously can't go back. We are extremely happy that we decided to get our son helmeted and we are thrilled with the result. Is his head now perfect? No, but it's definitely a lot better than it would have been had we not helmeted him. You cannot tell that his head is not not perfectly round unless you knew to look for it. Plus all the hair helps! Where is his helmet now you may ask? It's in his room on one of his bears. :)