Day 1 of helmet therapy…oh, and a tooth

Yesterday my son got his cranial molding helmet to help reshape his flat head. It was a decision my husband and I agonized over. Since flat heads in babies, or plagiocephaly, is a fairly new phenomenon, there isn’t yet an abundance of information or conclusive studies about it or the treatment of it.

Some people believe flat spots do not need to be treated – that babies’ heads will round out on their own as they get older. Some hail the helmet as the only effective way to treat a flat spot. Other therapies include repositioning, or keeping babies off their backs and/or flat spots, and craniosacral therapy.

I can honestly say we have tried everything – the helmet was our last resort. At our 4 month checkup, the pediatrician noticed how flat Jack’s head was and gave us a phone number to a neurosurgeon, just to see what they would say. I kind of brushed it off until Jack was 5 months old, then I thought I had better call for an appointment. Mostly, I was afraid of telling the pediatrician that I didn’t even call at Jack’s 6 month. I’m not very confident in my first time mom decisions.

It took 3 weeks to get an appointment at the neurosurgeon. I was hoping she would say he has a mild case and treatment is not necessary, but in the back of my mind I knew it was not going to be that easy. She recommended we get a helmet, scaring us with visions of our son not being able to fit into a football helmet in high school or being able to shave his head without getting made fun of. Still, we were unsure, so the neurosurgeon told us to give it a month of intense repositioning therapy and see if his head rounds out on its own. That was by far THE most stressful month of my life. How on earth do you keep an infant off the back of their head, when they are either lying on their back sleeping or playing, or lying in their carseat, or sitting in some other sort of device with head supports? And to top it off, my baby hated tummy time and learned to roll onto this back VERY quickly.

My husband and I decided to just go for the treatment after 3 weeks of stressing. We got a lot of different opinions. Some people made us feel like getting a helmet was the silliest thing they’d ever heard of…after all, WE never had those when WE were babies and we’re fine, right? Well, I don’t know…haven’t seen many of the people I know bald. Others were supportive. I seemed to find the most information on chat forums like Babycenter and Yahoo for plagiocephaly. 99% of those people said they were glad they did the helmet and would do it again.

The fitting process was easy, and the orthotist assigned to Jack, Amy, is super cool and you can tell she loves kids. I felt better after going and getting his head scanned and meeting Amy. It took a week for his helmet to be made. I had to go in for the rundown on it by myself – hubby was at work. My heart sank as Amy told me how kids who have these in the summer have a hard time because they get so hot and itchy, and how some kids skin doesn’t tolerate it and they end up with blisters and we should watch for red sore spots, and how Jack would probably have to wear it for a longer period then we initially thought because he is a little older at 6.5 months than when they would ideally put it on.

The hardest part was when he was crying and I picked him up to comfort him and he couldn’t fit his head in the crook of my neck because of his giant hard plastic helmet. It’s big, and awkward and I can’t cuddle him as well, and I wish I could just tell him why we are making him wear this obnoxious thing.

The truth is, he doesn’t seem to mind it at all. His skin hasn’t been red anywhere, he has napped with it on no problem, and he is happy as a clam. Friends that have seen him in it think it’s cute and no big deal. Everyone on the plagio forums says the kids get used to it so quick and it is absolutely no big deal after the first couple days and the time goes by so quick and they are all so glad they did it. I hope this is the case for us.

Oh yeah, and he also cut his first tooth yesterday 🙂

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