For babies with a misshapen head, a few months of painless, noninvasive helmet therapy can give the face and skull a more symmetrical look.

When an area of a baby’s skull is abnormally flat, it’s called positional plagiocephaly. Some babies start life with this condition because of how they were positioned in the womb. Others develop it after birth due to a tendency to sleep with their head in the same position.

“Positional plagiocephaly won’t cause brain damage, but it may cause facial asymmetry that can lead to problems with alignment of the teeth, wearing glasses, and fitting for a bicycle or batting helmet as children grow older,” says Sybill Naidoo, PhD, RN, CPNP, a Washington University plastic and reconstructive surgery nurse practitioner at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “Asymmetry can also make children self-conscious.”

An orthotist can fit babies for a custom, padded helmet that can redirect the growth of the skull so the flat part will round out. For many children, the flat spot disappears after wearing the helmet almost around the clock for several months and undergoing adjustments with the orthotist. The earlier helmet therapy begins, the easier positional plagiocephaly is to correct. It’s best to start helmet therapy between ages 4 and 6 months, according to Naidoo.

If you’d like to schedule a consultation with pediatric plastic surgery, call St. Louis Children’s Hospital at 314.454.KIDS (5437) or toll-free at 800.678.KIDS.