Patient Information

Flat head syndrome in babies


Logo for Paediatrics dept

This is for anyone looking after a baby with flat head syndrome.

What is flat head syndrome?

Babies sometimes develop a flattened head when they are a few months old. This is known as flat head syndrome.

It is quite common and affects about 1 in 5 babies.

In most cases it is not a major cause for concern. It does not have any effect on a baby’s brain or general development. Your baby will not experience any pain or other symptoms. 

The shape of your baby’s head will improve naturally over time. This happens as their skull develops and they start moving their head, rolling around and crawling.

What causes it?

The skull is made up of plates of bone. These strengthen and join together as your baby gets older.

A young baby’s skull is still quite soft. It can change shape if there is constant pressure on a particular part of their head. Reasons for this include:

  • Sleeping on their back. This can cause the back or side of your baby’s head to become flattened. However, your baby must sleep on their back to keep them safe from SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) or ‘cot death’.
  • Problems before birth (in the womb). If your baby was a bit squashed in the womb or there was a lack of amniotic fluid to cushion them, this can put pressure on their head.
  • The plates of the skull joining together too early.  This condition is rare.

What are the symptoms?

  • Flattening on one side of the head (also known as plagiocephaly). The forehead may bulge on one side and the ears may be uneven. These symptoms are cosmetic and have no lasting effects.
  • Flattening on the back of the head, which may appear wider (also known as brachycephaly). The forehead may bulge. These are cosmetic symptoms which have no lasting effects.
  • A long, narrow head, pointy or triangular forehead and loss of the soft spot on the head (fontanelle) before 1 year of age (also known as craniosynostosis). It is a rare condition. In severe cases, older children may experience headache, visual disturbance, delay in development or worsening school performance.

What can I do to help my baby?

You can take pressure off the flattened part of your baby’s head by doing the following.

  • While your baby is awake, encourage tummy time. Always put your baby to sleep on their back to keep them safe from SIDS or ‘cot death’.
  • Reduce the time your baby spends lying on flat surfaces such as car seats and prams. Try using reclining chairs, slings and baby carriers. This will vary the pressure on your baby’s head.
  • Change the position of toys and mobiles in your baby’s cot. This will encourage them to turn their head. You can also reposition their cot and changing table.
  • Alternate the side you hold your baby when feeding and carrying.
  • Avoid using specially designed helmets and headbands. There is no clear evidence that these help with flat head syndrome. Their use can cause skin irritation and discomfort to babies.

When do I contact my health visitor or GP?

Speak to your health visitor or GP if:

  • You are still concerned about the shape of your baby’s head, even after following the advice in this leaflet. Your GP may refer your baby to a paediatric clinic.
  • Your baby has difficulty turning their head.  Your GP may refer you to a physiotherapist who can help loosen and strengthen your baby’s neck muscles.

More information

Lullaby Trust logo
Lullaby Trust information on safe sleeping for babies

NHS information on flat head syndrome

NHS information on reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) or ‘cot death’

Flat head syndrome in babies - Kingston Hospital Download PDF


Your GP
Paediatric Admin Team, Monday to Friday, 9 am to 5 pm 020 8934 6403

Translate Please speak to a member of staff before or during your visit to the hospital if you require translation.
Accessibility Please contact the Patient Experience Team on 020 8934 3850 if you need this information in a different format.
For information accessibility please visit Kingston Hospital AccessAble www.accessable.co.uk/kingston-hospital-nhs-foundation-trust
Support services

Visit the hospital website, ask a member of staff, or ring us for details.


Switchboard 020 8546 7711

  • ‘Find Us’ page for maps, transport, registering a blue badge, disabled access
  • Information, advice and support for patients and relatives (PALS) 020 8934 3993
  • Pastoral and Spiritual Support 020 8546 7711
  • Learning Disability Liaison Team 020 8934 6895
Print - Standard Size Print - Large Size


Please speak to a member of staff before or during your visit to the hospital if you require translation support to access Patient Information. Please ring the phone number on your appointment letter, if you have one.

Request More Information


Please contact the Patient Experience Team on 020 893 3850 if you need this information in a different format.
For detailed information on accessibility at Kingston Hospital visit Kingston Hospital AccessAble (https://www.accessable.co.uk/kingston-hospital-nhs-foundation-trust).

Tell us how we are doing we'd love to have your opinion