More Babies Have Flattened Head Syndrome

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Babies


Ami and Brian Bunch, of Tucson, Ariz., are the proud parents of 10-month-old triplets who are currently sporting head-shaping helmets 23 hours a day, according to a story in the Arizona Daily Star. That's because Colton, Ethan and Hunter have plagiocephaly, or flattened head syndrome. The condition is more common than ever, and recent research in the journal Pediatrics says the main reason is that babies are sleeping on their backs.

But it's also more common in multiples.

"Simply having more children in the womb creates crowding and puts more pressure on the infants' head," study co-author Brian Verrelli, Ph.D., a human population geneticist in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, tells ParentDish in an e-mail. Verrelli's co-author is Jessica Joganic, an undergraduate student at ASU.
And fraternal twins have a higher risk of the syndrome than identical twins.

"Identical twins are more genetically similar than fraternal twins, and thus, because we found that fraternal twins had a higher risk for a flat spot than identical twins, this suggests that environment, and not just genetics, is a bigger factor," Verrelli says.

The Bunch babies began wearing the helmets in October, and will do so until February. The custom-fit helmets, decorated with the babies' nicknames (Maverick, Ice-man and Peanut) apply gentle pressure to reshape the babies' heads.

But not all babies with flattened heads need the helmets: Pediatricians often simply suggest parents give their baby plenty of tummy time during the day and rotate baby's sleeping position at night.

Related: Multiple Births

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.