…and by “we” I mean a medical professional of course. Bizarre topic right? Well LOTS of babies need help getting a nice round head. Even Today did an online article about how parents are getting creative with baby helmets. Cute right?! But what if you don’t want your kid in a helmet? Didn’t know this was an option? Oh please…read on…
Our pediatrician noticed my son’s flat head at his 2 month checkup. We knew he was favoring one side of his head when he slept, but the “damage” wasn’t clear to us until the doctor pointed it out. My kid’s head was lopsided. VERY lopsided. No worries, our doctor said it was quite common and to work on positioning his head different ways when he slept or was in his swing and to do lots of tummy time. We thought it would be a simple change and he’d be good to go.
Then we went back for his 4 month check up and it was worse. We had a nice long talk with our pediatrician about helmets and doctors to see because that’s just the “typical” thing to do when your kid has a flat head. He checked his neck muscles to make sure those were strong and developing as they should…everything else checked out perfectly. I was just wrapping my head around the fact that my son was going to wear a space helmet when the doctor was silent. I could tell he was thinking and after a bit he said he new a “magician” that, if we were open to the method, would be able to fix his head with no gear. Our baby’s doctor told us in so many words (and as gently as he possibly could) that my sweet son’s head would be squeezed back into shape with the “magician’s” bare hands.
Total. Voodoo. I didn’t think it would work and I thought it sounded insane. Buuuuuuut I really wanted to avoid a helmet. We agreed to see this head squeezing doctor so we could ask lots of questions and then go from there. If we didn’t like what he had to tell us we were going to go the helmet route. And since my son was still very young, we had some time to explore all possible routes.
I was feeling good about things after I did some at home research on osteopathic manipulative therapy (aka- head squeezing). It looked promising but I couldn’t find any REAL parents that had opinions about it. There’s not a ton out there other than the normal medical papers and I don’t have a lot of patience when it comes to medical terminology. It was trying not to give my hopes up and prepared myself to deal with the helmet thing…but I thought that this might just work!
Our first appointment was right after my son turned 5 months old. The unfortunate thing about going this route was that there aren’t many specialists out there, let alone in our tiny town. So we drove almost 2 hours to the “magician’s” office. Annoying, yes. But this would have been the case for a “helmet” doc for us as well.
Our doctor’s name is Dr. Grimshaw based out of an adorable office close to Lansing, MI. When we got there and met him I immediately felt better about the squeezing thing. He explained to us, in dummy terms, how it all worked and was SO gentle with examining our little guy. He told us in some cases he can fix a child’s head in 1-2 sessions but typically no more than 10. FYI- Jack’s head was pretty bad and it ended up taking 8 or so to get the job done. He answered all our questions and even demonstrated some of the techniques on us so we’d know how much pressure he would be putting on Jack’s head.
There were a few things wrong with my son’s head. The obvious flat spot but something I didn’t notice- his ears were not centered and his face was a little “off”. I’m not one to stare at my child and notice all his imperfections but when the doctor pointed this out I was horrified. PLEASE fix my poor lopsided kid I thought.
We asked about the difference between what he was doing and a helmet. His explanation was specific to my son (please do your own research!) but for Jack, a helmet would not have fixed the root of the issues. It turns out that he had a flat spot in his spine which caused tense muscles elsewhere resulting in his skull plates to be pulled in ways they shouldn’t have. It was interesting to hear how these things can have an effect on the ear canals, sinuses and even cause migraines…etc in the future. For Jack it wasn’t just about his lopsided head, there were some other serious things to take into consideration.
I was fascinated that after just ONE session of manipulation I could see improvement in Jack’s head. ONE SESSION. It was magic. We went back monthly through the summer and into the fall. We could have done things quicker but because we had that drive, he said it was no problem to spread out our sessions. Each session lasted about 30-45 minutes…just depending on how Jack did. Dr. Grimshaw would keep things interesting for him, it wasn’t just Jack laying on a table being squeezed. He walked him around his office, let him play in his sink with bath toys or let him sit in his lap all while massaging his back and head. During some of the times where he needed to apply more pressure, Dr. Grimshaw even had me nurse (our go to soothing technique) to relax Jack. He even SLEPT while he was getting worked on. No tears through out the entire process, I’m guessing that would NOT have been the case in the helmet scenario.
So revisiting the pictures I have…here was the difference we noticed after just 3 treatments-
We went back about 4 or 5 more times because he still needed work on the position of his ears. I realize these are not the best pictures and I wish I had more but trust me, the difference in his head is absolutely phenomenal.
If you’ve been told by your pediatrician that your child may need a helmet, do yourself a favor and look into osteopathic manipulative therapy. Bring it up with your child’s doctor and see what they think. I am so so SO glad our pediatrician was open enough to bring this up, I would have never known something like this even existed to fix a flat head. It is magic!
I should probably say the reason I was so against a helmet wasn’t for the cosmetic aspects or the annoyance factor. My daughter (Jack’s big sis) has had sensory issues her whole life. Even as a baby the signs were there. If we would have had to do a helmet, she would have freaked. It would have been an all out war and truthfully, she would have won. Having your first child with sensory issues makes you very cautious about what you do with your second. In good ways because you tend to expose them to more, but in bad ways in that you cringe when you think about them having to wear a helmet 24/7.
I would LOVE to hear from anyone else that has used this method to reshape their baby’s head. Or any positive helmet experiences as well. There are a lot of Moms and Dads worrying about their kid’s heads and I promise, no matter what method you choose, your baby will be just fine and won’t remember a thing!
UPDATE: Dr. Grimshaw has kindly answered a couple of questions in our comments but I’d love to include the info he posted here:
There were some questions about the differences between craniosacral therapists and Osteopathic physicians who practice Cranial. It is a matter of the level of education. There are craniosacral therapists with good hands and abilities, but they are not physicians. To treat babies requires a lot of experience and time in practice, and the more education a person has, the more they are able to apply all that they know as they use their hands and give advice to parents. The website for Cranial Osteopathic doctors in US is http://cranialacademy.org/ My new address is: 1106 N. Cedar St, Suite 200B, Lansing, MI 48906. Phone is 517-492-4818, Web site: oldtowndoc.com