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'Flat Head' Syndrome in Babies Usually Temporary
Date:11/29/2011

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- A new report reminds pediatricians that more young babies are sleeping on their backs, raising the risk of temporary head-flattening.

In general, the report says, the skull malformations are harmless and go away on their own, but doctors should be on the lookout for signs of serious problems.

Parents should be aware that they can prevent flattened heads on one side by coaxing babies to sleep with their head leaning to the other side, said report co-author Dr. Mark S. Dias. "Catch this early, reposition them and you can avoid a lot of grief down the road," he said.

However, it's still crucial to place babies on their backs to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), said Dias, a neurosurgeon at the Penn State Hershey Medical Center.

Pediatricians advise parents to avoid placing babies on their stomachs to sleep, and not allow them to lay on their stomachs -- "tummy time" -- unless they're awake and being watched. Back-sleeping is thought to reduce the risk of SIDS, whose cause remains mysterious and most frequently strikes babies aged from 1 month to 1 year.

The rate of deaths from the condition has dipped since a new push for back-sleeping began in the 1990s in the United States. However, doctors have seen more cases of babies with flattened heads, Dias and colleagues reported in the December issue of Pediatrics.

A 2002 study found that 13 percent of babies born alone (not as twins or other "multiples") had signs of head flattening. Another study, published in a recent issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, reported that Texas saw a ninefold increase in flattened-head cases between 1999 and 2007.

When it's caused by sleeping, the condition isn't thought to be dangerous and will vanish over time, although it may take three to five years, Dias said. "It's purely c
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