I researched every little thing while pregnant. What car seat was safest? What stroller was best? I read parenting book after parenting book. Blog after blog.
Not one time did I ever stumble across anything about Torticollis or Plagiocephaly. So, when the pediatrician said to start doing neck exercises to loosen Tripp’s neck, I really didn’t pay much attention. I honestly thought this was typical newborn care. I tried to do the neck stretches after every diaper change like instructed, but honestly would either forget or Tripp would get so upset that I would give up. Looking back, I regret my lack of perseverance.
If you’re like me and have no idea what this weird T word is, here you go…Torticollis means “twisted neck”. It’s when a baby’s neck is tight and they have trouble turning to one side. Many babies are born with this condition, and we think Tripp was born with it. Looking at his earliest pictures, we see him laying with his head always tilted to the right. He had trouble turning his neck towards the left.
Sometimes, Torticollis can cause a condition known as Plagiocephaly. Plagiocephaly is more commonly known as “flat head syndrome”. A flat spot is caused by laying on a certain spot for too long. With Tripp’s Torticollis, he had trouble turning his neck to the left causing him to keep his head looking to the right. He was constantly putting pressure on the right side of his head; therefore, causing a flat spot.
Ever since the Back to Sleep Campaign to combat Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, these two conditions have been on the rise. A newborn spends so much time on their back. They don’t get as many opportunities to stretch their neck muscles like babies born before the early 90’s did. (Please hear me say this: Continue to put your baby on his back to sleep. It’s the safest way to sleep. Don’t put your baby to sleep on his tummy to try to avoid these conditions).
I say all of this because to combat these two conditions, Tripp will be wearing a cranial helmet for the next two-four months. As I typed that, tears came to my eyes.
I feel I failed him as a mother.
I’m scared of the looks I will get out in public. What’s wrong with your baby? You didn’t do enough tummy time? Why would you even take him in public? You must be a horrible mom.
The truth is, we took him to Physical Therapy every other week. His Torticollis has essentially diminished, but he has a flat spot on his head from the amount of time he was looking to the right. (His neck was tight on the left).
I regret letting him sleep in his Rock-N-Play for naps because it was easier than waking him up to put him in his crib. I feel guilty for not researching it and it’s link to a flat head. (If you choose to use a Rock-N-Play, ensure it’s soft or add cushion under the fabric for the head and limit time in it).
When it was time to do tummy time, I picked him up as soon as he started fussing because I hated to see him cry. I hung his toys in the center of his activity gym instead of on the left side which would encourage him to look to his left.
I read on a wonderful blog called Cando Kiddo that you can’t regret what you didn’t know. I can’t beat myself up for not knowing how to prevent Torticollis and Plagiocephaly, but I can influence what I do now, now knowing the facts.
Tripp is basically in tummy-time boot camp as I like to call it. We use the exercise ball to lay on his tummy and roll back and forth looking in the mirror or at the fish tank. He likes to lay on his tummy now and knock over a block tower or play with his tool bench. We carry him like superman around the house. Instead of staying in his car seat at the grocery store, I wear him in my ergo. I got ride of the Rock-N-Play. When he’s sleeping, we turn his head to look towards the left. His favorite toy dog hangs from the left side of his car seat. When we change his diaper, he has a light up music toy to his left. He naps on mom or dad for his afternoon nap so he can have some extra tummy time.
This decision to get the cranial helmet has been extremely difficult. I’ve shed many tears through the process of this decision. I realized that my fears of getting a helmet were towards my own fear of people and their judgement. There was some fear that it would be uncomfortable for him, but the root of my fears towards the helmet was what others would think of me. However, I don’t want to regret one day Tripp asking me, “Mom, Dad, why do I have this flat spot on my head?” I don’t want him to get made fun of in school for having a weird shaped head. I don’t want to have to tell him that I was too afraid of what people would think of me as a mother to get him what he needed.
As a mom, we do what’s best for our kids. I must lay down my pride, my selfishness to help fix his flat head. I know that God is with me and for me through everything. Nothing happens that is not allowed by His will. I thought I had it all figured out and knew a lot about parenting from all my research, but through this process God has shown me how little I truly know and has humbled me through this. I could have done everything right, and Tripp could still have a flat spot. It’s part of His bigger plan. As Romans 8:28 says, “we know that all things happen for the good of those who love him.” God is at work in my heart during this process.
I pray that Torticollis and Plagiocephaly would be brought to the light. May other new parents be aware of this condition unlike Alex and I were. If you know a new parent or soon-to-be parent, please share with them this blog post.
Here are some great links that I found helpful through this process:
CanDo Kiddo Blog– Here you will find tips to avoid the baby helmet, learn about how much time in baby gear is a good amount, baby play and development and much more! This has been my go-to blog!
Pink Oatmeal– Another great blog with tips and tricks for baby development
Mama OT-Great advice from an occupational therapist
There is an awesome Facebook support group called “Plagiocephaly and Torticollis Support for Babies in Cranial Helmets”. Search and join for a wonderful support network!
**Update: Tripp has had his helmet for a week already! He is wearing it like a champ! He cried for a few minutes when we would first put it on at the beginning, but now he doesn’t even flinch! We are just about through the initial introduction period and soon he will be wearing it for 23 hours a day. We’ve already seen some progress in the little he’s worn it.
I still get a little nervous taking him out in public with his helmet, afraid of what people will think of me as a mother. However, most people don’t stare at him like I feared. If they do say something, it’s to tell me that they know a baby who had to wear a helmet and that the helmet is wonderful in helping round out their head.
There is a fabulous business in Columbia, Missouri called Fast Signs. They wrapped his helmet to look like the cutest World War Two Pilot there ever was. They took the big, bulky, blue helmet and transformed it into an adorable pilot helmet! If you ever need any type of sign, we highly recommend them. They were fantastic to work with and blessed us with decorating his helmet for FREE!
Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have!