Helmet Journey… Why Does My Baby Girl Need to Wear a Helmet?
first paragraph use key phrase?? whole phrase.. “helmet journey”
As a child, I had to wear a back brace for little over 13 years! I spent basically my whole childhood and teenage years in a plastic shell around my whole torso. You can imagine how I felt when we found out that our baby girl will have to wear a plastic helmet on her head for several months.
My mommy heart broke at first. Not only for her, but also for me, knowing how hard it was for me to be different when I was a child. The numerous comments kids made. The shame I felt for wearing it. The uncomfortable feeling the whole time… 23 hours a day… And here we are, almost 30 years later, and my baby girl who is barely 6 months old has to wear a helmet.
Why does she actually need a helmet? helmet journey
Natalie was a “Big Baby” – at least that is what the doctors kept telling me. During our 32nd week ultrasound, she was already head down and ready to get out of my belly… but not for the next 7 weeks. She was squished in my belly with only a small space around her and she was most likely born with a flat spot on the right side of her head. We believe that her plagiocephaly developed due to her position in the womb. (Other reasons for Plagio?)
I was working for a chiropractic office during my pregnancy and I was getting much needed adjustments from a wonderful, Webster certified, Dr. Whitney Hamed from the Wellness Connection in O’Fallon, MO. (I will dedicate one whole blog post just to talk about chiropractic care for babies and during pregnancy so stay tuned! )
Since we delivered our baby girl during the uncertain times with the whole pandemic thing, I wanted to make sure we keep our baby safe but I also knew that I really want to get her adjusted and evaluated by Dr. Whitney. She was so kind and came to our house when Natalie was just 5 days old. There was no concern regarding Torticollis and Natalie’s muscles and range of motion were just fine. We kept getting her adjustments every week and she did always so well and even enjoyed them.
We found out there was something to be concerned about few weeks later during our pediatric well child visit. Before they mentioned it, none of us realized she did have a flat head on one side (Plagiocephaly). And to be honest, I never even thought of checking it or focusing on it. After delivery and having a newborn baby during a pandemic with just me and my husband at home with her, we really did not know what to look for and I believe a lot of parents don’t… And that is why I decided to start a blog and document our helmet journey to maybe help some parents out there who have to deal with the same thing.
What is Plagiocephaly?
“Plagiocephaly is a condition that causes a baby’s head to have a flat spot (flat head syndrome) or be misshapen. The most common form is positional plagiocephaly. It occurs when a baby’s head develops a flat spot due to pressure on that area. Babies are vulnerable because their skull is soft and pliable when they’re born.” You can read more about plagiocephaly on the BabyCenter website.
When our Nurse practitioner told us that she had a flat spot, we were told to reposition her to the other side of her head. So during the day, I was sitting on the floor with her all the time and I was placing her toys to the left of her so that she could look there, I had the playmat with toys hanging only on the left side, I had her lay on the changing table so that she could look left (even though as a right handed person, it was quite hard to get used to at first), we did as much tummy time as possible, we held her a lot and thankfully she slept looking left at night. But unfortunately, all this repositioning did not lead to much of a success.
We were sent to the Kids Plastic Surgery to make sure that Natalie does not have Craniosynostosis due to her soft spot being almost healed at 3 months of age. That is another long story that I might write more about later… but in a shortcut this is a description from the CDC’s website:
Craniosynostosis is a birth defect in which the bones in a baby’s skull join together too early. This happens before the baby’s brain is fully formed. As the baby’s brain grows, the skull can become more misshapen. The spaces between a typical baby’s skull bones are filled with flexible material and called sutures.
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So technically, we went to our doctor with a concern for scoliosis and we were leaving that appointment with concern about her flat head and a possible skull surgery, so scoliosis seemed the least concerning at that time. As stressful as it sounds, I am really glad that we went there at this time to start with the treatments as soon as possible.
We were also sent to the Orthotic & Prosthetic lab by our pediatric doctor and a chiropractor to have a head scan done to see how severe it was. The scan showed 11 mm asymmetry and that put us to moderate to severe category for a helmet.
Immediately after the scan, I scheduled an appointment with the specialist for the “flat head” – a craniosacral chiropractor – Dr. Andrew Dorough from the Little Flower Family Medicine. I drove straight there from the Orthotist. We started seeing Dr. Dorough twice a week and he always spent half an hour working on Natalie’s head.
The best results are reached when these treatments start early on and by the time we got there, Natalie was already 3 months old. That is definitely one of my regrets, that we did not get there early enough. But as new parents, we did not know… Maybe it could have been fixed without helmet, maybe not, but we will never know now. It was definitely quite a tough decision to make.
Every baby is different and some babies can get their head shape corrected on its own, some with physical therapy, some with the help of a craniosacral chiropractor and some just need a little more help with a helmet.
There is a short window of opportunity to have this corrected. The earliest babies start to wear helmets is usually between 4th to 6th month of baby’s age. It is because the brain grows fastest between 6th to 9th month of age. We did not want to miss this window and decided, after a lot of research, talking with other doctors and specialists that we will go with the helmet.
There was quite an inner fight in us as parents. I kept going back and forth on deciding if “To do, or not to do…” the helmet. As a mommy, I did not want my baby to “suffer” in the helmet. The more I was reading about it, the more confused I was and the harder it was to make a decision.
I would read other parents’ posts on Facebook support groups for Plagiocephaly and Torticollis and one minute I felt like we can do this without helmet and another minute I was thinking that the helmet would not be that bad. And I just could not decide. Again, I was thinking of me, 30 years ago, when I was put in the plastic shell and since it was for medical reasons, my parents did not even question it. And it was a good thing that I wore my back brace, because it helped my severe scoliosis. I hated every single minute in it, but I now know it was necessary. And I did not want to have my baby girl go through this. But as some point I knew that we tried everything and I did not want to risk having her have issues with her head shape when she is older.
The tricky part about helmets is that it is not really only the looks of the head. We did not need to have a baby with perfectly shaped head. I don’t think any parents ever think to themselves when thinking of their future baby: “Hmmm, I really hope she will have a perfectly round head.” Of course, that was the last thing we cared about. We wanted a healthy baby and we were lucky enough to have a perfectly healthy baby and this is compared to other things the tiniest thing to deal with.
Some babies with Plagiocephaly might have issues with ear infections, due to slight shift of ears and ear canals and we definitely wanted to prevent that for our baby. Also, some sports’ helmets might not fit correctly if the head shape is slightly different than “normal” for example skiing or bike helmets might not work that well if they don’t fit properly and there are other things but these are just to name a few.
If you have any questions, please contact me here.