[back] Baby sleeping position
Are you giving your baby flat
Mail on Sunday Feb 18, 2007
Cot-death fears 'mean half of infants have skull problem'
BRITAIN is facing an increasing number of babies with flattened skulls, a leading medical expert warned yesterday.
Almost half of infants develop a flat patch to the back or side of their head, according to the latest published research.
And the reason is thought to be the highly successful campaign to prevent cot deaths by putting babies to sleep on their backs. But treatment of the condition, flat head syndrome or positional plagiocephaly, has led to a major split in the medical profession.
While some experts claim it can cause medical problems, including muscular and visual difficulties, others say it is purely cosmetic and will correct itself without intervention.
Philip Owen, a paediatric cranial osteopath from Manchester, who has treated thousands of children with the syndrome over the past 25 years, fears the number of babies developing symptoms is growing significantly. He said: 'Four out of five babies who come to me have misshapen heads and in 30 per cent of those cases the problem is moderate or severe.
'In future I think we will see more cases. It is very sad.'
But Dr Martin Ward Platt, a consultant paediatrician at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary, says parents have nothing to worry about.
'It is extremely common for babies to have flat patches on their heads and it always has been,' he said.
'It is part of the normal condition because babies are born with very large brains.
'This is another example of the tendency to create medical problems out of normality. It is not a problem.'
Jennifer Bone, 28, from Great Budworth, Cheshire, decided to have her son Oliver fitted with a helmet when he was seven months old after his head became very flat on the right side.
Although she saw some improvements with the helmet, Oliver started to suffer from pressure sores. So she tried a special mattress, designed by Mr Owen to prevent flat head syndrome, which has a dip in it for the baby's head so it doesn't flop to one side.
She said: 'Oliver is nearly two now and his head shape has improved significantly, although it is not perfect.
'I just wish we had been told about this right from day one. If we had, we wouldn't be trying to correct it now.'
The latest research was based on American infants. It found that up to 48 per cent of babies under the age of one developed the deformity.
Experts last night stressed the importance of following the Back To Sleep campaign -launched in the Nineties - as the number of cases in which babies died has dropped by 50 per cent in a year.