So now we have to worry about our baby head preference among other things
Something I have learned recently is that whether you are a new parent or jumping back on the merry-go-round again, you will always worry about your kids and find something to worry about. Now little miss is over a month old and we have settled into the shock of having another baby around the house I am starting to remember all of the things I used to worry about: is she eating, sleeping, pooing (yes that’s a thing) enough, is she too hot or cold, do her eyes look wonky to you? There are an array of things to consider with a newborn but one I am quite familiar with is baby head preference.
What is it?
Baby head preference is when a baby prefers to turn their head one way over the other. With the little dude, he had it slightly when he was a baby and we had to correct it and it seems little miss is developing it too. If left unchecked it can turn into torticollis which is a total preference for one side and can lead to neck muscle spasms as well as developmental problems. Also, leaning constantly on hard surfaces in the same place can cause the skull to flatten and leave a flat head.
What Causes Head Preference?
The good news is, it’s not because we are crappy parents! (yay!) There are a variety of different reasons from difficult deliveries leading to slight muscle strains causing babies to favour a particular side, underdeveloped muscles or even furniture layouts and where you put your baby in a room. Other causes could be:
- Muscle Weakness – This is a catch 22 because they may not have developed evenly (or a muscle could have been strained at birth) leading them to use only one side which strengthens one side, meaning they then only use that side.
- Prolonged sitting in car seats or high chairs – Many babies are soothed by car seats, bouncers, rockers or even the high chair but if they are sitting in the same position for a long period of time and they are only looking in one direction it can contribute to it significantly and also lead to the flattened head.
- Cot Position – Babies don’t have very good eyesight so they are drawn to bright lights, pretty colours and patterns so if you put the cot against a wall you need to be careful how you position them. If a window or colourful pattern is only on one side, that is the side they will look and they will ignore the wall, leading to head preference.
- Feeding – For those who bottle feed it can be more comfortable one way or the other but this can contribute to them preferring one side as they associate it with being fed and therefore turn that way when they are hungry.
How To Recognise It
It’s pretty easy once you know how to look for because it is exactly as it sounds, they favour one side. Spend the day taking photos (more excuses to snap cute pics that I don’t need!) and paying attention while they are awake or asleep and look at what side they are looking, resting and putting their chin down to. If you go through all of the pictures you may find, like me, that they are all looking the same way. It’s not the end of the world and definitely no reason to panic as there are simple, non-medical ways you can help that will adjust it in time, as long as you recognise it and make small adjustments now, it’s not a big thing at all.
How To Deal With Baby Head Preference
- Cot Rotation – Rotate babies in their cot so they have to look in different directions. If you notice they have a favourite toy or mobile, fix it to different areas of the cot.
- Feeding – If you are breastfeeding try new positions that don’t put as much strain on the neck or a particular side and if you are bottle feeding make sure to use both sides.
- Tummy Time – This allows the neck to be a bit more free and relaxed so that they can work the muscles, particularly when trying to lift their head.
- Towels or Cloths – When in a car seat/bouncer/rocker, turn your baby’s head slightly to the weaker side and use a rolled up muslin or cloth to support the head and neck to stop them turning it back. *Be sure not to do this for long periods of time as both sides need to be used (otherwise you will create the same problem on the other side!)*
- Talk to a Doctor – If you are concerned or your baby is refusing to turn their head to the other side at all, even with gentle repositioning, talk to a doctor as it could be the cause of an underlying issue or a neck injury.
*Never try to force your baby’s head or neck, it should naturally allow you to reposition their heads, if it doesn’t there is another issue at play and you should discuss this with a doctor immediately. If you have any concerns, always seek the advice of a doctor, midwife or health visitor and professional and they can discuss a personalized action plan with you. Babies with other conditions may not have head preference and it could be a sign of another underlying issue.*