Everything You Need to Know About the Causes and Treatments for Plagiocephaly in Babies

Positional Plagiocephaly: Definition, Symptoms, Traits, Causes, Treatment

When you first lay eyes on your newborn baby, all you can see is perfection. But what happens when you notice that their head is not quite symmetrical? This condition, known as plagiocephaly, affects about one in every five babies in the United States. While it can be upsetting to see your child’s head shape change, you should be comforted in knowing that a Portland, OR pediatric plastic and craniofacial surgery can treat the condition. If you are concerned about your child’s head shape, read on to learn everything you need to know about plagiocephaly.

Causes of plagiocephaly

There are a few different reasons why your baby may have plagiocephaly. The most common ones include:

Sleeping on their back

When babies are born, they sleep on their backs to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). However, this position can put pressure on the back of the head, leading to plagiocephaly. This is a case of positional plagiocephaly, and it is more noticeable when looking at your baby’s head from above.

Tight muscles in the neck

Your baby may be born with tightness in the muscles on one side of the neck, a condition known as torticollis. It can cause plagiocephaly because the baby keeps its head turned to one side. As a result, the back of the head becomes flattened on that side. Torticollis usually goes away on its own within a few months, but your baby may need physical therapy to help stretch the muscles.

Premature birth

Your baby is more likely to develop plagiocephaly if born early (before 37 weeks) than if born full-term. This is because their skulls are softer and more pliable. As a result, they are more susceptible to misshapen heads.

Treatments for plagiocephaly

A pediatric plastic surgeon will recommend or use various non-surgical methods to treat plagiocephaly. The most common ones include:


If your baby has positional plagiocephaly, the doctor may recommend that you switch up their sleeping position. They may also suggest that you hold and carry your baby differently so they don’t spend too much time lying on their back. Repositioning may also mean increasing your baby’s tummy time when they are awake. 

Physical therapy

If your baby has torticollis, they may need physical therapy to stretch the muscles in their neck. The therapist will likely show you a few exercises you can do at home with your baby to loosen the muscles.

Head-shaping helmet

In some cases, your baby may need to wear a head-shaping helmet. The doctor will most likely recommend this option if your infant has mild to moderate plagiocephaly. The helmet applies pressure to the flattened areas of the head, which helps shape it into a more normal appearance. The helmet must be custom-fit for your child, and they’ll need to wear it for 23 hours a day for several months.


In severe cases of plagiocephaly, surgery may be necessary. The most common type of surgery is cranial vault remodeling. It involves making incisions in the bones of the skull and reshaping them into a more normal shape. This surgery is recommended if your infant is between 4 and 8 months old.

Get treatment for your baby’s plagiocephaly today

While plagiocephaly can be concerning, it is important to remember that many effective treatments are available. Your doctor can help you decide which option is best for your child. If you are worried about your child’s head shape, schedule a consultation with a board-certified surgeon at PNW Plastic Surgery.