Cleft & Craniofacial Center


Positional plagiocephaly is a flattened spot on the back or side of your baby’s head. It is also called deformational plagiocephaly or flat head syndrome. 

Plagiocephaly Is Not Craniosynostosis

Plagiocephaly is sometimes mistaken for craniosynostosis. Craniosynostosis is a more serious condition. It happens when fibrous joints (sutures) in an infant’s head prematurely fuse. Craniosynostosis causes an abnormal skull shape and brain growth.

With positional plagiocephaly, the skull sutures do not close early. The condition does not impact brain growth or development. It can affect your baby’s appearance.

What Causes Plagiocephaly?

Some babies are born with positional plagiocephaly because it begins to form in the uterus. It may happen because of pressure from the mother’s pelvis or another fetus when multiple births occur.

For babies born with a normal head shape, positional plagiocephaly develops when a baby sleeps in the same position most of the time. The number of babies diagnosed with plagiocephaly has increased because parents put their infants to sleep on their backs to prevent the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Other babies develop plagiocephaly from torticollis. This condition causes a baby to turn or tilt their head one way constantly.

Treatment for Positional Plagiocephaly

Rely on your University Children’s Health pediatrician for helpful information about preventing flat head syndrome. Your doctor may recommend:

  • Changing your baby’s head positions during sleep
  • Lying your baby on his or her stomach (tummy time) during the day
  • Holding your baby more often to take pressure off the flat spot
  • Stretching and strengthening neck muscles with physical therapy

Cranial Helmet Therapy

If these techniques don’t help change the shape of your baby’s head, you may need to consult a pediatric specialist. When caught early, between four and six months old, mild to moderate positional plagiocephaly treatment uses a cranial remolding helmet to correct a misshapen head.

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