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What is Plagiocephaly? What you need to know About Babies With Flat Heads

Updated: Apr 18

It is really common and normal for babies to be born with or develop a flat spot on their heads. This flat spot is called Deformational Plagiocephaly or Positional Plagiocephaly.

The good news is that Plagiocephaly improves over time and does not affect brain development in the future. There are, however, a number of ways you can reduce the risk of Plagiocephaly.

Here is WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW about Plagiocephaly by our Paediatrician Expert Dr Lexi Frydenberg.

What is Plagiocephaly?

Deformation plagiocephaly is a very common craniofacial (skull and face) problem resulting in a misshapen, flat or asymmetrical head shape.

Plagiocephaly does not usually affect the development of a baby's brain, but if left untreated, it may change their physical appearance by causing uneven growth of their face and head.

What causes Plagiocephaly?

All babies are born with soft skull bones and therefore their heads can mould quite easily in their early months.

Unusual head shapes can develop in a number of ways, most commonly:

  • Head moulding as they move through the birth canal

  • Head getting stuck in one position in utero

  • When a baby has limited neck movement and prefers resting their head in one particular position

  • And most commonly - lying in the same position for a long time, usually on their back (Brachycephaly).

How to prevent Plagiocephaly


  • Alternate your baby's head position between left and right when putting them to sleep (you don't need to change their head position during sleep)

  • Place your baby at alternate ends of the cot to sleep or change the position of the cot in the room. Babies often like to look at fixed objects like windows or pictures.

  • Reeber that all babies need to put on their backs to sleep to reduce risk of SIDS and do not put pillows in the cot.


  • When your baby is awake and alert, pay with them facing you (face time) or place them lying down on their front *tummy time) or on their side from as early as 1-2 weeks of age.

  • Place rattles or toys (or other people's faces) that your baby likes to look at in different positions to encourage your baby to turn their head both ways.


  • Vary your holding and carrying position of your baby e.g using a sling, holding them upright for cuddles, or carrying them over your arm on their tummy or side.

Plagiocephaly treatment

Most babies will not need any treatment at all as the misshape improves naturally as they grow and gain head control.

If intervention is necessary, the most common plagiocephaly treatment is:

  • Repositing your baby so he/she avoids laying on the flat head spot / more tummy time.

  • Improving baby's neck movements through exercise and stretches

  • Encouraging baby motor skills like rolling, reaching and turning

  • Carrying your baby in certain ways - your health professionals will advise you.

Only a very small number of babies will have a severe and persistent deformity and may need to be treated with helmet therapy.

When to seek help for Plagiocephaly

See your GP or Maternal Child Health Nurse If:

  • You are concerned about your baby's head shape

  • Your baby has a strangely shaped head or a flat spot, which hasn't gone back to normal shape by two months of age.

  • Your baby has a strong preference for turning their head to one side

  • Your baby has difficulty turning their head.

This expert article was written by Dr Lexi Frydenberg our Paediatrician Expert, to learn more about what common medical issues are during the early years, purchase our Parenting Portal and or secure your spot at our Baby Basics Masterclass.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is provided for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute advice provided by your doctor or other healthcare professionals. The author of this information has made a considerable effort to ensure the information is in-line with current guidelines, codes and accepted clinical evidence at time of writing, is up-to-date at time of publication and relevant to Australian readers. The opinions and thoughts expressed in this article reflects the view of the author only and not the broader medical profession or her places of work. The author accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in this information.  We recommend you always consult a qualified health practitioner for individualised advice.

Baby with Plagiocephaly | Uneven shaped head


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