#134 - Torticollis, Plagiocephaly, and Infant Development with Baby Begin!

by Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L January 06, 2021

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Torticollis, Plagiocephaly, and Infant Development with Baby Begin!

Today we have an incredible conversation with Jennifer Barnard, an Occupational Therapist who is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of plagiocephaly without a helmet, while treating torticollis quickly and effectively. You can hear the passion in her voice so make sure you check out her website and start following her on Instagram after listening to today's episode! 




Torticollis, Plagiocephaly, And Infant Development With Baby Begin

Jennifer, the dedicated owner of Baby Begin, is committed to providing specialized treatment for plagiocephaly using cutting-edge helmets. With an impressive track record, Jennifer has successfully treated nearly 6,000 infants, reducing the necessity for helmets in approximately 90% of cases.


What Is Plagiocephaly?

Plagiocephaly is a condition that affects the shape of a baby's head. It is commonly known as flat head syndrome since it leads to a flattened or asymmetrical head shape.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, about half of baby's are at risk of developing positional plagiocephaly. This condition may also be accompanied by torticollis, a muscular disorder that causes a baby's head to tilt or turn to one side.


Plagiocephaly And Its Connection To Torticollis

Torticollis is a muscular disorder that causes a baby's head to tilt or turn to one side due to shortened neck muscles. It can occur due to positioning in the womb, birth trauma, or an underlying medical condition.

This disorder can also lead to plagiocephaly, as the baby tends to favor one side of the head while sleeping or lying down. The tilting or turning of the head can result in asymmetry in the shape of the skull, worsening the impact of plagiocephaly on development.


The Impact On Infant Development

Both torticollis and plagiocephaly can have a significant impact on an infant's development. As babies grow and develop, their skulls are still malleable, making it crucial to address any issues with head shape or muscular disorders early on.

Untreated torticollis can lead to delayed motor skills, difficulty with visual tracking, and even developmental delays in severe cases. Plagiocephaly can also cause vision, hearing, and jaw alignment issues if left untreated.


The Importance Of Early Intervention

Jennifer highlights the vital importance of early intervention in treating plagiocephaly and torticollis. By promptly identifying these conditions, parents can ensure their baby receives the essential treatment needed to rectify head shape abnormalities and muscle imbalances.

By intervening early, the necessity for helmets or other corrective measures can be minimized, thus reducing the potential long-term impact on an infant's development. Jennifer emphasizes the significance of regularly monitoring a baby's head shape and promptly seeking professional assistance if any concerns arise.


Educating Parents About Plagiocephaly And Torticollis

Education and awareness play a crucial role in ensuring that every baby receives the necessary treatment for plagiocephaly and torticollis. Unfortunately, many parents are unaware of these conditions and their potential impact on their child's development.

Jennifer aims to enlighten parents about plagiocephaly even before their baby is born. By providing valuable information during pregnancy, parents can take proactive measures to reduce the risk of plagiocephaly and safeguard their child's well-being.


Tummy Time Is Key

To minimize the risk of plagiocephaly and torticollis, Jennifer suggests implementing simple measures such as incorporating tummy time into your routine. This helps strengthen neck muscles and prevents babies from developing a preference for one side by alternating their head position while lying down.

To extend the baby's tummy time, you may want to try using a pacifier or other soothing techniques. This not only allows for more time for muscle development but also helps address any concerns regarding the shape of their head.


Treatments For Plagiocephaly And Torticollis

Plagiocephaly and torticollis can be treated using a variety of approaches depending on their severity. These treatment options may include physical therapy, repositioning techniques, exercises to strengthen the neck muscles, and, in more severe cases, helmets or cranial remolding bands.

The most effective method for treating plagiocephaly is using helmets, which are generally recommended for infants under 18 months of age. As babies begin to sit up and take on different positions, addressing the bulge on the head becomes more challenging to do so effectively.


When To Use A Helmet For Plagiocephaly

Suppose you've attempted other interventions without observing substantial improvement within two weeks to a month and still have concerns regarding the head. In that case, Jennifer recommends contemplating using helmets as a potential solution.

In the initial stages, it is recommended to give therapy precedence as the primary approach rather than resorting to helmet usage right away. This is not to diminish the significance of helmets; instead, it adopts a proactive rather than reactive approach, showcasing a slightly more cautious standpoint.

Therapy is crucial in addressing neck tightness and correcting any existing asymmetries, even wearing a helmet for protection. Therefore, regardless of helmet use, engaging in physical or occupational therapy is necessary to achieve the best possible outcomes.


Final Thoughts

Jennifer's primary business obstacle lies in effectively reaching out to individuals seeking her services. It is vital to provide families with comprehensive information about the options at their disposal rather than relying solely on a passive "wait and see" or reactive "run and get your helmet" approach.

Furthermore, it is crucial to prioritize the education of individuals who interact with these infants during their early stages. Ensuring that every pediatrician examines the head and neck of a two-month-old baby and promptly refers them if any issues are identified can decrease plagiocephaly by 70%.





While we make every effort to share correct information, we are still learning. We will double check all of our facts but realize that medicine is a constantly changing science and art. One doctor / therapist may have a different way of doing things from another. We are simply presenting our views and opinions on how to address common sensory challenges, health related difficulties and what we have found to be beneficial that will be as evidenced based as possible. By listening to this podcast, you agree not to use this podcast as medical advice to treat any medical condition in either yourself or your children. Consult your child’s pediatrician/ therapist for any medical issues that he or she may be having. This entire disclaimer also applies to any guests or contributors to the podcast. Under no circumstances shall Rachel Harrington, Harkla, Jessica Hill, or any guests or contributors to the podcast, as well as any employees, associates, or affiliates of Harkla, be responsible for damages arising from use of the podcast.

Keep in mind that we may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice for you.

This podcast should not be used in any legal capacity whatsoever, including but not limited to establishing “standard of care” in a legal sense or as a basis for expert witness testimony. No guarantee is given regarding the accuracy of any statements or opinions made on the podcast.

Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L
Rachel Harrington, COTA/L, AC & Jessica Hill, COTA/L

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