Skip to main content

Flat Head Syndrome

Flattening of the head in newborns is quite common, but it has no negative impact on their brain development. For most babies, it improves as their head starts to grow. You can help to speed up the process by doing “tummy time” regularly throughout the day when your baby is awake.  

Baby doll lying on back

What causes flat head?

Did you know?

Newborn babies have soft skulls, because the bones have not hardened yet. When a baby’s head rests against a surface in the same position for too long, their soft skull may flatten.   

This usually happens in the first 3 months of life when the skull is most soft and your baby is spending most of their time on their back. 

What effect does flat head have on the baby?

Flat head syndrome, or flattening of the head, will not affect your baby's brain development, but can cause asymmetry of the face. 

There are three types:  

  1. flattening of one side of the back of the skull, this can cause asymmetry of the face/ears  
  2. flattening of the whole back of the skull, causing a widening shape of the head  
  3. flattening of the sides of the skull, causing an elongated skull  

Back to sleep, tummy to play

As babies’ heads grow and the bones harden, they often start getting the typical rounded shape. Here are some activities that you can do to help speed up the process.

Sleep time  

  • Continue placing your baby on their back to sleep  
  • Do not place pillows or toys in the crib  
  • Place the crib so that your baby needs to turn their head away from the “flat” side to look at something motivating - like you or the window  

Play time  

  • Tummy time is an important activity for your child’s development  
  • It will help them build strong neck and shoulder muscles so they gain head control 
  • This also helps them progress to rolling, sitting, crawling, and more  
  • One hour of tummy time is recommended by the time your baby is 3 months old  
  • Start with a few minutes
  • Increase the time as your baby gets stronger
  • Only practice tummy time when your baby is awake

Ideas for Tummy Time

  1. Turn your baby on their tummy for a minute or two after each diaper change.  
  2. Lie down propped up on some pillows. Place your baby on your chest so they are lying on their tummy.  
  3. Put a rolled-up towel under your baby’s chest to prop them up when lying on the floor. This will make it easier for them to look around. After a couple weeks, remove the roll and get them to use their arms instead.  
  4. Put toys, books, or a mirror on the floor to explore together.  
  5. Sit on the floor with your baby on their tummy on the bed or couch where they can easily see you. Your baby loves to see your face!  
  6. Create a “treasure basket” with everyday items like a scarf, fabric, wooden spoon, and sponge. Babies love exploring these new and exciting textures!  
baby and mother

Other health benefits of Tummy Time

Did you know?

Doing these activities with your baby can also help prevent a condition called torticollis, which causes stiff neck muscles. 

Your healthcare team will monitor your baby’s development.   

Ask for a physiotherapist if you have any questions about flat head syndrome.  


Our Partners

Grand Council of the Crees logo
Santé et des Services sociaux logo
Health Canada logo