Plagiocephaly (sometimes called flat head syndrome) is a very common, very treatable disorder. It causes a baby’s head to have a flattened appearance. Studies show that 20 to 25 percent of infants who sleep on their back develop some degree of plagiocephaly.

Positional plagiocephaly develops when an infant’s soft skull becomes flattened in one area, due to repeated pressure on one part of the head. This usually happens when a baby sleeps with the head turned to the same side during first months of life. This causes a flat spot, either on one side or the back of the head. This condition occurs more often in premature infants whose skulls are especially pliable. They also spend a lot of time on their backs without being moved or picked up because of their medical needs, such as a stay in the NICU.

Another type of altered head shape is brachycephaly. This head shape appears as the head being wider than it is long. The head looks flat across the back and perhaps tall.  This usually happens when a baby spends most of their day with pressure evenly on the back of their head.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of Plagiocephaly?

The back of the baby's head is flatter on one side. This is typically the only symptom; it is not painful and does not affect the baby’s day-to-day life or abilities.

  • The baby usually has less hair on that part of the head.
  • When looking down at the baby's head, the ear on the flattened side may look pushed forward
  • When looking down at the baby's head, the forehead may appear pushed out on the flattened side.
  • The head looks wider than it is long.
  • The head can appear flat across the back


Treatment for plagiocephaly usually includes physical therapy, special exercises, varying sleep position or wearing corrective helmets.