Because of the worries associated with Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), doctors and other childcare experts recommend that parents put their babies to sleep on their backs. This helps keep the airway open and prevents the baby from suffocating him- or herself. Unfortunately, this practice often results in a flat spot on the back of the baby’s head, called Plagiocephaly.

Plagiocephaly isn’t dangerous for the baby and usually corrects itself over time. A baby’s skull bones haven’t strengthened and fused in infancy, which makes those bones more malleable. When your baby spends a lot of time on his or her back, flat spots can occur. And while they aren’t dangerous or cause for concern, they can frighten or disturb new parents.

To prevent flat spots on your baby’s head, you need only adjust the amount of time he or she spends lying on his or her back. Putting your baby to sleep face-up is important, but this doesn’t mean that he or she can’t lie on his or her back while you are watching. If your baby is hanging out in a playpen or crib and you are keeping an eye on the situation, “tummy time” is perfectly reasonable.

Studies have shown that lying your baby on his or her tummy during the day can also improve motor function later in life and help your baby to develop strong neck muscles.

Furthermore, you can prevent flat spots on your baby’s head by slightly adjusting the child’s position every time he or she goes to sleep. Babies usually wake up in the same position in which they fall asleep, so try turning your baby’s head slightly to the left or right, alternating directions for each nap time.

What you do have to realize, however, is that there are many different causes for various head-shape abnormalities in babies. Flat spots on your baby’s head could be cause by Plagiocephaly or they could be caused by a more serious disorder. If you notice that your baby has a flat spot, go ahead and visit your doctor for a diagnosis. You should also pay attention to the position in which your baby sleeps.

Other disorders — such as torticollis, which is caused by crowding while in-utero – can be potentially more dangerous and might require further investigation. However, in most cases, back-sleeping is the primary cause.

For more information about plagiocephaly and how to prevent flat spots on your baby’s head, you can visit plagiocephaly.info or kidshealth.org.