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2015, September: Plagiocephaly, aka Declander the Amazing Helmet Boy

Declan started wearing a helmet last Friday. We knew he had a wonky head - for the first four months of his life he always slept in the exact same position - but we were hoping he would grow out of it. I knew I was supposed to be doing something about it (wedging him to sleep on the other side somehow), but it was enough of a celebration just to get the kid to sleep that I couldn't deal with anything else. At four months old he started rolling and would sleep in a variety of positions, but unfortunately the damage had been done.

At his four month check-up the pediatrician said it wasn't too bad and that we should just keep an eye on it. At six months, however, a different pediatrician said "hmmm. We should probably have a specialist take a look." The specialist came from Salt Lake City and said that Declan had a moderate case of plagiocephaly (wonky head) due to slight torticollis (weak neck muscles on one side). Now that he's holding his head up fine and sitting/rolling/crawling etc., it won't get any worse, but it also probably won't get any better. He has a very noticeable flat spot on the back right side and his right ear and right eye are pushed forward as a result.

She said that we didn't have to go with a helmet, but that if not, we would need to work hard to make sure he never rested his head on the flat spot again. Not while sleeping, napping, sitting, playing, anything. Otherwise his head would just continue to grow with the flat spot instead of correcting it. That situation sounded far too stressful (and I'd have to make sure the daycare ladies were doing it, too), so we decided to give the helmet a try.

We first went for more precise measurements, and found that the flat spot side of his head was 19mm narrower than the other side. Then, we went for the "casting." Until about a year ago, this was actual plaster casting and would have been horrendous for both of us, I'm sure. Now, thankfully, it just involves a silly hat, some stickers, and photographs of every angle of his head. Declan still hated it, but mostly because he had to sit in a Bumbo chair for the duration and he HATES Bumbo chairs.

They used the photographs to build a 3D digital image of his head then, from this, created a foam mold of his head as it should be (which we got to keep!). This was used to create the helmet, which, since it is based on the corrected version of his head, has gaps where we want his skull to grow (the flat spot area) and light pressure where we do not want any more growth.

We then went for the helmet fitting, during which they adjusted the edges and added pads for comfort. Declan started wearing it initially for just an hour at a time (one hour on, one hour off) and then wore it gradually more and more each day until day five, when he started to wear it 23 hours a day. We go for check ups every week initially, then every 2-3 weeks. He's likely to be wearing it for around 3-6 months. At the check ups they take measurements and adjust the helmet as needed.

The first couple of days were tough. The helmet is really difficult to get on and off and Declan got mad. A couple of times I set it too tight, which made him extra mad for extra long. After a couple of days, however, I got better at putting it on and he seemed to stop noticing it was there. By day 3, he was happily napping in it and on day 4, he successfully slept through the night. (On day 5, he decided to start teething, but that's a story for another day.)

I hate the fact that I can no longer kiss and snuggle his head in the same way, and I hate how sweaty his poor head gets when it's warm, but otherwise it's easy to forget it's there.

Fingers crossed for a non-deformed, non-wonky, beautifully-rounded head in record-breaking time. :)


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