Model Chrissy Teigen frequently shares cute photos of her two children on social media, but a recent picture of her young son sparked a big conversation about corrective helmets online.
Teigen, 33, posted photos of six-month-old Miles on Twitter of him wearing a helmet to fix his “slightly misshapen head.”
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“Baby Miles getting fitted for a little helmet today for his adorable slightly misshapen head,” she tweeted. “So if you see pictures, don’t feel bad for him because he’s just fixing his flat and honestly he’s probably gonna (sic) be even cuter with it somehow.”
The tweet prompted parents to share pictures of their kids wearing helmets, with many of them also posting messages of support.
“Our son wore a helmet for seven months and it worked great!” one Twitter user wrote.
“My little Henry is also in the #helmetsquad … he’s all fixed now,” another person tweeted.
Why do babies wear helmets?
Like in the case of Teigen’s son, corrective helmets are used to “gently correct the shape of babies’ skulls over time,” John Hopkins Hospital explains.
Since newborns have soft skulls, it’s common for their heads to become misshaped or flat on one side — especially if a baby sleeps on the same part of their head — and develop a condition called positional plagiocephaly, or “flat head syndrome.”
Flat head syndrome is not dangerous to a child’s brain development, but a misshapen head can become permanent if not corrected, said Samantha Lam-Bellissimo, manager of the Orthotics Clinic at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Lam-Bellissimo said helmets are often given to infants under 12 months, typically between the age of five to seven months. After a year, it is harder to correct a head’s shape since a baby’s brain grows quickly during their infancy.
“Because the brain is growing rapidly, the overlying bone structure is growing as well,” she explained. “What these helmets are doing is restricting the head from growing in the areas that are too prominent … and directing all that future potential growth into the flat areas.”
Another reason infants may wear a helmet is due to a condition called craniosynostosis. This is when sutures of a baby’s skull prematurely fuse, causing problems with brain and skull growth. In these cases, Lam-Bellissimo said helmets are given to infants after they have corrective surgery.
What parents should know about corrective helmets
Lam-Bellissimo said that understanding ways to prevent flat head syndrome is key to reducing the chances that your baby will need a helmet.
“There was a really successful campaign back in the ’90s to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and all the evidence clearly slows that sleeping on your back does prevent SIDS,” she said. “But the problem is, I think parents took it too much to heart, and now place their babies on their backs all the time.”
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“But your baby isn’t asleep all the time, so it’s really important when your baby is not asleep to get them off their back and do lots of supervised tummy time.”
Lam-Bellissimo also said it’s important for parents to pay attention to their baby’s range of motion, and consult a doctor if their infant has limited mobility turning their head a certain way. If there’s tightness in their neck muscles, babies can develop a flat head as a result.
Lastly, she said it’s important parents advocate for their children and see a specialist if they’re concerned with the shape of their child’s head.
“Parents should have the right to get information, and make the choice as to what’s right for their baby.”