Brittany Bowman got her son Sam off to a good start, close to home.
Sam was a baby with bright eyes, a winning smile . . . and a flat head. (It’s common.)
Pediatrician Ben Flannery, MD diagnosed Sam’s condition, plagiocephaly, at Sam’s 4-month-old well-child checkup. Babies’ skulls are soft and can become flattened by their position in the uterus, or after birth by spending too much time in one position.
Sam’s mom Brittany wasn’t worried. Sam’s older brother Tommy had flat head syndrome too, plus torticollis (short or tight neck muscles on one side). Tommy had been treated in the Twin Cities. By the time Sam was diagnosed, care was closer to home . . . and more personal.
“I wanted to get a better experience than we had with Tommy,” Brittany recalls. “NH+C had the resources in place with the new Plagio clinic. I was really glad about that.”
A team of specialists – pediatrician, physical therapist, and orthotist (who makes custom helmets) – works together to evaluate baby and make a treatment plan. The team examined Sam together, confirmed the diagnosis, and took measurements for a helmet. Helmet fittings and follow-up were conducted by the orthotist. NH+C partners with Orthotic Care Services for this specialized care.
“I went into it super excited,” Brittany says. “I felt I had a really solid understanding of the care plan, and I was very comfortable with the people handling my son. That’s a really big deal.”
“Everyone knew Sam by name, listened to any concerns I had, and made it a priority to get us in if he was having any issues,” Brittany adds.
Sam was fit with his helmet at 4 months and was seen every 2 to 3 weeks for measurements and adjustments to his helmet as he grew. He wore his helmet 23 hours a day, with breaks for bath time and outside time on hot days. “It didn’t restrict any of his activities,” Brittany says. Babies typically wear their helmet for three to five months.
Sam also struggled with some large-motor skills. He didn’t tolerate being on his tummy – crucial for developing neck, arm and trunk muscles. Physical therapist Heidi Richardson, PT “has been phenomenal getting Sam up to speed with motor skills” through weekly physical therapy sessions. “Heidi has been a miracle worker getting Sam to do skills in other positions.”
At 14 months, Sam is working on crawling and standing. “He’s zooming all over the place on his hands and knees. He’s making big strides,” Brittany says. “Sam loves Heidi. It’s been a great experience for him.”
“I’m so thankful for this team. Everyone is so amazing and kind.”
Brittany’s advice for parents of newborns? “Keep an eye on it. If it comes down to putting your baby in a helmet, do not stress it. There’s no stigma, it’s completely common . . . and it works wonders if you stick with it.”
NH+C’s Plagiocephaly Clinic makes it comfortable and convenient to treat babies close to home.
A pediatrician, physical therapist and orthotist (who makes custom helmets) work together to evaluate baby and make a treatment plan. Some babies benefit from a custom helmet, made by an orthotist. It’s safe and effective: As baby’s head grows, it rounds out to fill open space in the helmet. The best age to start helmet treatment is 4-6 months. (You pick the helmet color.) Our team also evaluates the strength and range of motion in baby’s neck. Often, babies with flat head also have shortened neck muscles on one side (torticollis) if baby tends to turn the head frequently to one side. Physical therapy is used to treat torticollis.
Make an appointment: (507) 646-8800
To learn more: Plagiocephaly Clinic and Dr. Ben Flannery