Your baby has Positional Plagiocephaly and Torticollis and will need to wear a helmet in order to fix it” are not the words any parent likes to hear. However, this kind of condition has become much more common since the back to sleep campaign started in the early 90’s.
I inevitably blamed myself. Were we really not doing “enough” tummy time? Were we putting my son in baby holders too often? Did he really need to wear a helmet or was there something else we could do? Would he have a flat head forever, get teased for it when he’s 12 and then blame us?
Next thing we are told: “Your son’s head flatness ratio is 5 Standard Deviations from the norm. He is at the extreme end of the bell curve and basically, no matter how much Physical Therapy he has, he’ll never be within the ‘normal head shape’ range, unless you get him a helmet.” Awesome.
A whole variety of reasons have likely contributed to the reason that my son now wears a helmet. I’m sure this is partly related to being born prematurely.
After getting our son’s head shape scanned and analyzed and waiting what felt like a lifetime for insurance approval- we were able to pick up his helmet from an orthotic provider in Chicago just over a month ago. As my husband and I listened intently to the instructions on how to care for his helmet, how to take it on and off, how to ramp up the time frame that he should wear it for and what side effects to look for, it dawned on me… how would this affect his sleep? We had been able to sleep train our son to sleep 12 hours and nap well — would the helmet cause him to regress?
For the first day, he was to wear the helmet for one hour on and one hour off during awake hours and not for naps or at night. The second day, we ramped it up to two hours on and an hour off during awake hours but not for naps or at night. Next he wore it 3 hours on and an hour off AND for naps. As I tentatively put him down for his first nap in his helmet – he cried for a minute and fell right asleep. I questioned this. Surely he would wake up after 5 minutes because he was uncomfortable? He didn’t. He slept through his nap like normal. Aside from him looking like a member of Daft Punk on the monitor, there was no difference. We continued to ramp up the time he would wear it, with the ultimate aim being 23 hours a day. The first time we put him down for the night in his helmet, he cried a little longer than usual when we put him down but then he slept as normal!
In all honesty, we have been really lucky. A lot of babies can get really hot while wearing the helmet and some can get a heat rash or skin sensitivities. We only dress him in a lightweight onesie (no sleep sack or fleecy PJs) at night, to avoid him getting too hot. When he had a fever, we took it off and there was no way we were going to do a long haul international, overnight flight with it on either. Sometimes the helmet can rub –some babies experience this worse than others – we’ve found a tiny bit of aquafore on his cheeks helps with that.
The smell can be reminiscent of an old sneaker unless you clean it regularly which isn’t cute.
The benefits of it? Well now our little guy is moving around a lot more it helps to protect his head if he falls (although I’m sure that’s not advised by doctors). We don’t need to worry about winter hats in negative temperatures AND we think he looks really sweet in it, don’t ya think?