What to Expect When Using Cranial Helmets for Plagiocephaly Treatment
Plagiocephaly is a common condition in newborns that causes the flattening of one side of the head. Though it can often be corrected with positional therapies, some babies may require a cranial helmet for treatment. In this article, we will discuss what plagiocephaly is and how cranial helmets may help to correct it, as well as when to consider a cranial helmet, the benefits and risks of using one, alternatives for treatment, cost and what to expect from wearing a cranial helmet.
What is Plagiocephaly?
Plagiocephaly is a type of deformational plagiocephaly that results in an asymmetrical head shape. It can occur in babies for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it is caused by the positioning of the baby within the womb or when the baby lies in one position too often after birth. In other cases, plagiocephaly can be caused by cranial suture fusion, craniosynostosis, or skull malformation due to genetic disorders such as Apert Syndrome.
Overview of Cranial Helmets for Plagiocephaly
Cranial helmets are specialized headgear that is used to help reshape the skull and correct plagiocephaly in babies. The helmet works by gently redirecting the growth of the baby’s head and providing pressure around the affected areas to encourage symmetrical growth. The helmet sits directly on the baby’s head and is carefully fitted by a trained professional to ensure optimal results.
When to Consider a Cranial Helmet for Plagiocephaly
Cranial helmets are typically recommended when positional therapy alone does not correct the plagiocephaly or if there are signs of worsening asymmetry after 12 weeks of age. In these cases, a cranial helmet may be the best course of treatment to correct the head shape and prevent any long-term cosmetic issues.
Benefits of Using a Cranial Helmet for Plagiocephaly
Using a cranial helmet can help to reshape the head and improve the baby’s appearance over time. It also can help reduce the risk of long-term health problems associated with plagiocephaly, such as vision and hearing impairments.
How to Fit and Care for a Cranial Helmet
Cranial helmets must be fitted by a trained professional in order to ensure the best results. During the fitting process, several measurements are taken of the baby’s head, and the helmet is customized to the baby’s exact head shape. The helmet must be worn for 23 hours a day and should be removed only when sleeping or during bath time. Additionally, the helmet needs to be regularly adjusted as the baby grows in order for it to remain effective.
Potential Risks Involved with Wearing a Cranial Helmet
Although cranial helmets are generally safe, there is the potential for skin irritation, as the helmet is in direct contact with the baby’s head. Additionally, some babies may find wearing the helmet uncomfortable or even become distressed. However, any discomfort should subside over time as their body adjusts to the helmet.
The Cost of a Cranial Helmet
The cost of a cranial helmet varies depending on the type of helmet and where it is purchased. On average, they can range from $1,000 to $2,500. It’s important to note that insurance companies may cover some or all of the cost of a cranial helmet.
Alternatives to Cranial Helmets for Plagiocephaly Treatment
In some cases, plagiocephaly can be treated without the use of a cranial helmet. This may include physical therapy to help correct any issues with head shape and positioning of the neck, as well as tummy time exercises that promote healthy development. Additionally, specialized pillows may be used to help position the baby’s head while sleeping although not recommended due to APA safe sleep recommendations.
What to Expect from Wearing a Cranial Helmet
While wearing a cranial helmet, you should expect to see a gradual improvement in the baby’s head shape as it adjusts and conforms to the helmet. The exact amount of time this may take varies depending on the severity of plagiocephaly and how well the helmet is fitted and worn.
How Long Does Treatment with a Cranial Helmet Last?
The treatment duration for cranial helmets varies from baby to baby but generally lasts between three and six months. It’s important to ensure that the helmet is worn as often as possible in order for it to remain effective. Once the desired head shape has been achieved, the helmet can be removed and the baby’s head shape should remain correct.
Cranial helmets can be a helpful tool for treating plagiocephaly and helping to maintain a healthy head shape in infants. It’s important to work with your doctor to determine when and if a cranial helmet is right for your baby, as well as any potential risks or complications involved. With proper fitting and care, a cranial helmet can be an effective treatment for plagiocephaly and help your baby achieve the desired head shape.
The Lunara team wishes you and your baby all the best on this journey! If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. We are here to help! Good luck!