An epidemic of cases of Flat Head Syndrome has been blamed by experts on modern parenting techniques.
With links to the campaign to get children to sleep on their backs instead of fronts to prevent cot death, the condition is thought to be a result of pressure on a baby’s fragile skull.
Charlotte Kemp meets the family of a sufferer and an expert who has witnessed the worrying trend.
At bath-time, toddler Evie Snedker giggles mischievously as she splashes her older sister Abbie. Her hair’s all wet and so is the bathroom floor.
But as this is the only hour of the day when the 17-month-old’s head isn’t encased inside a specially-designed helmet, mum Annmarie is happy to let her enjoy herself.
Once she’s dry, though, and in her pyjamas, the plastic-and-foam helmet goes back on.
Evie has a condition known as ‘Flat Head Syndrome’, so she has been wearing this contraption 23 hours a day since a few weeks before her first birthday. And there’s still another month to go.
‘She doesn’t actually mind it any more,’ stresses her mother Annmarie Snedker, 37, of Edlington, near Doncaster. ‘In fact, she cries when I take it off for bath-time. All of us are used to it now.
‘But people do tend to stare when we go out and children have said some cruel things.’
Soon, though, the sight of tiny helmet-wearers like Evie may not be such a rarity. For experts say there has been an epidemic of such cases in recent years — and modern parenting habits may be to blame.
The rise of Flat Head Syndrome has already been directly linked to the campaign for children to sleep on their backs rather than their fronts.
Although this has dramatically reduced the incidence of cot death, it has also meant that babies spend much more time face up than they did a generation ago — putting more pressure on their developing skulls.
When babies lie on their front, they lift their heads slightly off the floor, using their arm muscles, whereas when they lie on their backs, the full weight of their heads rests on the back of their skulls.
Worryingly, experts are asking whether these skull deformities could also be down to the lifestyle of today’s busy parents who, for the sake of convenience, rarely take their children out of their prams, cribs, or car seats, meaning the baby’s head rests against a surface for long periods of time.
In the U.S., researchers have identified a generation of what they call ‘container babies’ who spend up to eight hours a day being carried around in car seats and other devices such as bouncy seats and rockers.
In the UK, childcare experts are calling these children ‘bucket babies’ and are urging parents to restrict the use of plastic seats.
Of course, to the army of mothers who are juggling children with work and are often on the move, baby carriers can seem invaluable. Car seats are proving more popular than prams and sales of other types of baby seats are booming.
Evie’s mother, Annmarie, confesses that, like many mothers, she often put her daughter in either a car seat or a baby bouncer for hours at a time — which meant her head was usually resting against something.
More: > Here