Anti-flat head pillow for babies: is it really useful? Is it dangerous?

With: dr Patrick Aubé, herbal medicine practitioner

The arrival of a baby often triggers a desire (and need) to stock up on various baby items. But it’s sometimes difficult for parents to find their way around and know which accessories are really useful. Among these items is the anti-flat pillow designed for this limit the risk of plagiocephalyso flat, raises questions.

Why are babies at risk of getting a flat head?

Several factors can explain a baby having a deformity of the skull. “It can come from pregnancy, froma bad position of the fetus in the uterus, a twin pregnancy… There may also be sequelae related to childbirth.” explains Dr. Patrick Aubé, general practitioner and author of “Les tisanes qui soignant”, edited by Leduc S.
Sleeping on your back can also be one of the causes of this plagiocephaly. The newborn, always attached to a hard surface by the back of its head, would see this flatten and present an asymmetry. In this regard, manufacturers began marketing anti-flat pillows.

What is a baby anti-flat head pillow or pillow used for?

Anti-flat pillows in recent yearsappear in day-care centers and websites. your goal? Reduce the risk of plagiocephaly by sleeping on your back, and allow the baby to keep his head round. Some models are made from organic cotton and have memory foam to elevate baby’s head, others have it an ergonomic shape, a cushion filled with microbeads, that allow movement to strengthen the baby’s neck… Some are inclined and have a shape that guarantees an even pressure on the baby’s skull while keeping his head nice and round.

Anti-flat pillows, up to what age?

These pillows are sometimes developed with the help of pediatricians. They are specified by the manufacturers for use from birth in the first 4 or 6 months depending on the modeluntil the baby can roll over on its own.

It is imperative to take it out of bed as soon as the child moves its head, can roll over, and not to keep it up to 6 months as recommended by the manufacturers. The risk is that the baby will put his face in it and, especially if the model has shape memory, that he will not be able to breathe.

Anti-flat head pillow panda, bear, heart… Where to buy and which pillow to choose?

Many outlets, shops and e-shops offer the opportunity to purchase anti-flat pillows. Some are made in Europe from eco-friendly materials and are subject to laboratory tests on textile flammability, migration of chemical elements… But There are no standards specific to headrests. dr Aube warns: “Between a high-quality pillow and one imported from who knows where over the internet is a bit complicated. And then, with all this on offer, parents might think it’s the flat pillow an obligation to avoid plagiocephalywhile this phenomenon is very limited”. Worse, it would even pose a risk in the eyes of health authorities.

What are the opinions on anti-flat pillows: is it effective, useful or dangerous?

Opinions differ about the effectiveness and danger of this type of pillow. The manufacturers and designers of these anti-flat pillows believe they pose no risk to the newborn, have not been advised of a potential hazard by users, and have performed laboratory tests. According to them, too, these pillows promote head mobility and limit the risk of plagiocephaly.

But these opinions differ. “Most experts, the HAS, the paediatricians, the osteopaths say that these anti-flat head pillows are useless. It even raises a concern about danger. Combat the current policy Unexpected infant death, is that there should be nothing in the crib that could cause a problem. However, the pillow can cushion the position of the head on a hard surface such as the mattress This does not change anything in the instructions of the High Health Authority »drives Dr. Aube away.
In its leaflet on the prevention of position-related skull deformities and unexpected infant deaths published in February 2020, the HAS for its part reminds that “compression devices (baby wedge, head wedge, positioning pillow, reducing bed, etc.) useless, harmful and dangerous, because they can promote prone position and increase the risk of suffocation from burial. Avoid objects (stuffed animals, stuffed animals, duvets, blankets, etc.) that can cover, suffocate or constrict the child.” Measures to reduce the risk of suffocation.

Recommendations against unexpected infant death (IMD)

Since the 1990s, health authorities have recommended sleeping on your back to avoid the risk of unexpected infant death. Thanks to this directive, the number of newborn deaths was reduced by 76%. But this sleep mode has also increased the number of cases of plagiocephaly. But according to some This can lead to jaw misalignments, speech disorders, scoliosis, etc. in the medium or long term. In response to parents’ concerns, the Haute Autorité de Santé and the National Professional Council of Paediatrics issued a press release on March 5, 2020 stating: ” these cranial deformities are benign and have no consequences other than aesthetic ones : Scientific data show that there is no causal relationship between plagiocephaly and neurodevelopmental delay, specific ophthalmologic, oculomotor or vestibular disorders”. The HAS also states that these deformities mostly disappear around the age of 2 years if the child’s spontaneous mobility is preserved. So we can also take action at this point.

How to prevent the baby from having a flat head?

It is possible to prevent the risk of plagiocephaly in other ways than by placing a controversial element (the anti-flathead wedge) in the baby’s bed. ” The baby needs to exercise his neck muscles so they work properly and have a better posture for his head. During the day, when the parents are with the baby, they can put them on their tummy to exercise their neck muscles., suggests dr Patrick Aube. On the activity mat, we put some toys on the floor next to baby, we play with him by encouraging him to turn his head left and right when lying on his stomach with his head stretched out. We don’t leave him in his deck chair or stroller for too long during the day and encourage his physical activity as much as possible.
When the child sucks the bottle or the breast, we change its position to vary its posture and encourage rotation of its head on either side.

To prevent a flat head, you can also attach small mobiles over the bed so that the child directs his or her gaze to one side or the other. You can also change the orientation of the bed or have the baby sleep in the opposite direction to alternate positions. This should limit the risk of plagiocephaly.

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