5 Things I’ve Learned while Preparing for a Helmet

Annabelle has been in the process of getting a helmet for her plagiocephaly – also know as flat head syndrome.  For her, it started with her torticollis (a condition where the head is turned to one side), which we noticed as we were leaving the hospital with her for the first time.  When in her carseat, she would lean her head one direction, and it continued when we laid her down and a variety of other positions.  After a few weeks, we brought it up to our pediatrician and he gave us some stretches to work on.  We did those stretches for several weeks and the correct progress wasn’t being made, so he eventually referred us to a Physical Therapist and Pediatric Plastic Surgeon.

The Pediatric Plastic Surgeon referred us to a clinic where Annabelle would be evaluated to see if she qualified for a helmet.  With many measurements, the specialist diagnosed that she has mild plagiocephaly and could benefit from a helmet.

1. It’s Better to Do It, than regret it. 

After our first evaluation, we learned that we hadn’t been going to Physical Therapy long enough for her plagiocephaly.  After another month of going to Physical Therapy for her torticollis and plagiocephaly, we had made a little progress, but not enough for us to feel comfortable not getting a helmet.  We feel better about going forward with getting a helmet than not.

Getting a helmet is time sensitive.  Changing the shape of your child’s head is something that can only be adjusted while they are growing.  If you wait a few years to see if it will fix itself, it’s not likely that it will fix it – and at that point, you can’t get a helmet to fix it.

2. Don’t Blame Yourself

Stop blaming yourself, because you did not cause this.  Children have been getting plagiocephaly more frequently since parents have been given the suggestion to have their babies sleep on their backs.  This change was made from previously having babies sleeping on their stomachs because of SIDS.  If you ask me, I would much prefer plagiocephaly over SIDS.

So, you lay your baby down on the ground while you’re getting ready or making dinner.  That did not cause the flat spot.  There are so many things you can think of that may have caused this, but when it comes down to it, they’re growing and they need a little help.  It’s like getting braces – you didn’t cause your kids teeth to grow in crooked.  Your little one is just getting “braces” for their head!

3. Be Patient with the Process

Going into the first appointment with the plastic surgeon, I thought that was going to be the only appointment to get the helmet ordered.  Boy, was I wrong!

After the appointment with the plastic surgeon, we were referred to a Clinician who would determined the severity of her plagiocephaly.  If a baby’s plagiocephaly is mild to moderate – which Annabelle was – the clinician recommended we visit a physical therapist for repositioning techniques and tummy time.

We then started going to physical therapy and worked on a variety of repositioning techniques and stretches. After a month of doing that, we went back to the Clinician and then (finally) we were at a point where we could move forward with the process.

4. What We’ve Tried to Prevent Getting a Helmet

We have been going to Physical Therapy for about two months now.  We have learned how to stretch and strengthen her neck for the torticollis.  These stretches have been very helpful and have made a difference, but it’s not permanent yet. We will most likely continue physical therapy for a few more weeks and then continue doing stretches and strengthening on our own at home.

Our Physical Therapist recommended special Banana Pillows to put in the carseat, because that is when she lets that torticollis take over.  They have been very helpful, but make sure they are strapped in – Annabelle loves to pull hers out and play with them.

There is also a Baby Head Shaping Pillow that you can have them sleep on.  It’s great if your baby won’t pull it out and use it as a toy.  Annabelle would do that, unless I rocked her to sleep and she was in a good sleep when I laid her down.  Everyone is different, so things might work out differently for you.

5. Prepare to Enjoy the Helmet!

Scott and I have been talking about how we’re going to enjoy the helmet, and most of the things we think of are different ways to celebrate! We are going to celebrate when she get the helmet on and when she graduates.  I’ve been on the look out for cute onesies too – it’ll just make the accessory even better.  I did a little research and also learned how to make bows, because what is a Gowdy girl without a bow! Also, most places let you choose the design of the helmet…so fun right?! Choose something that will make it enjoyable and fun for all the pictures you’ll look back on in the future.

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