Researchers are concerned as parents value their babies’ looks more than their health as they put towels and toys in with their babies to prevent a flat head, increasing the risk for SIDS.
‘Flat head syndrome’ affects about one in five babies, and may occur if a baby always lays with its head in one area.
The prevalence of the condition has risen since guidelines were introduced in the early 1990s to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by placing children on their backs on a firm, flat mattress in a cot that has no pillows or toys.
Now, parents are concerned that their babies will suffer a flat head syndrome by following the SIDS guidelines. So, to prevent a flat head, parents use pillows, toys and towels around the baby as they sleep, putting them at risk of cot death.
In a survey of 120 parents, the George Institute of Global Health at the University of Sydney found that parents were giving their babies pillows to sleep on, or propping up one side of the mattress with rolled towels in an attempt to prevent a flat head or the condition known as plagiocephaly. This condition worried most parents because it could permanently affect their child’s “looks” and some thought it would affect a child’s development.
The study showed that parents were using products or sleeping positions that are discouraged under SIDS guidelines just to prevent a flat head. This is despite parents being advised to use ‘tummy time’ and different back sleeping positions to encourage a natural skull shape to develop.
The study also recommended stronger messaging regarding the lack of safety of current pillows, marketed to prevent flat head, to decrease their use.
Every year, over 100 Australian infants die in a sudden and unexplained way.
“Parents told us because they could see their baby getting a flat head, they felt it was a more real threat than cot death. So when they noticed a flat spot developing they stopped following SIDS safe sleeping guidelines,” Associate Professor Alexandra Martiniuk told the Herald Sun.
Parents concerned about flat head syndrome should seek advice from their GP.