The Dreaded Baby Helmet

Our son Parker was born with a flat spot on his head. Normally a flat spot on an infants skull is not a cause for concern, as in many instances the skull will naturally fill out and reshape itself as the baby grows.

We are not entirely sure why Parker was born with a flat spot. He had a rough delivery that required vacuum assistance and was also born with an umbilical cord 1/4th the length of a typical umbilical cord. The vacuum assistance is thought to have possibly caused “Torticollis”, essentially a tightness in the neck muscles causing him to favor one side over the other. Another possibility is that due to his short umbilical cord he was in a prolonged position in the womb that caused more pressure on one side of his skull.

As mentioned before, Parker was born with this flat spot so it was something we noticed right away. His head was pretty swollen at birth due to the trauma, but we noticed as the swelling improved and went down, his skull still had a flat spot. We brought this to several of our Doctors attention, but we were told that this concern usually resolves itself and to encourage Parker to lie on the other side. We tried everything we could think of to get Parker to lie on the other side, but it is not as easy as it sounds! We hung toys only on the right side of his play mat, to encourage him to turn and lie that way, as the flat spot is on the left side. We rotated which direction he faced in his crib every night as suggested too. We also never let him sleep in his car seat unless we were out and at home he always slept in his crib, never his swing. At home he was held often as we didn’t want to put him down in his swing that could potentially make the flat spot worse. But alas, our efforts yielded no results and by 4 months of age it was clear that something else needed to be done, as none of the suggested methods had been working. It is also incredibly hard to try to reposition a baby who has discovered how to roll!

The baby helmet was first brought up by our Family Doctor and my first thought was ‘no way would our baby need it!’. I was convinced he was one of the babies whose skull would naturally correct itself. Besides, I had heard the baby helmet was annoying and expensive! After the appointment I went home and began researching the baby helmet, or Starband as it is officially called. I could not find a lot of information online, but what I did find did not reassure me. How come it is easier to find horror stories online than it is success stories? I found out the Starband costs $2500 and is not covered by our Provincial Health Care as it is considered a “cosmetic” problem and not a medical one. I could not believe it, $2500?! Yikes!

We got referred to the Children’s Hospital in our city and during the assessment I was told that Parker would indeed need the helmet. I was assured that there was nothing medically wrong, but since Parker had a flat spot since birth it was highly unlikely the flat spot would resolve itself. I could feel the disappointment and the guilt starting to wash over me. Had I done everything I could have to encourage him not to lie on the flat spot? What if I had opted for a caesarean instead of having him vacuum assisted? I felt like I had somehow failed, and the helmet would be a daily physical reminder of this failure.

After a lot of back and forth we finally decided to try the Starband and will share the results as we get them. The decision on whether or not to get the helmet is a personal one that is different in every situation. Please keep this in mind as you read our opinion and results of the helmet. What is right for our baby may not be right for your baby!

The Starband is actually pretty cool! They did a scan of Parker’s head to create a custom fitting helmet. The areas of the skull that already have sufficient growth touch the inside of the helmet when it is being worn. The slight and gentle compression of these areas encourages the brain to grow and fill out the areas that are flatter, as the flatter areas are not touching the helmet and have room to grow. I was told the brain will take the path of least resistance when growing.

Parker has been wearing the helmet for a week now, and so far so good. He has to wear it for 23 hours a day, with the band only off an hour for cleaning. The treatment is usually 4 months long. I have to say, so far it is easier that I imagined it would be! Parker does not seem to care about the helmet and it has not effected his sleep at all! If anything, the helmet bothers Dan and myself more than it does Parker! So far I am glad we decided to get the helmet and am eager to see the results!

Here is a before photo:

I will post updates and progress photos though out our adventure with the baby helmet. Fingers crossed we see results!

-Courtenay

 

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