Fact sheet: Plagiocephaly

From the Centre for Community Child Health

It’s quite normal for new babies to develop a flat spot on their head. In most cases, this will correct itself and there will be no long-term harm. This flat spot is called plagiocephaly.

All babies are born with soft skull bones so that their head can mould to the birth canal. Premature infants, whose skulls are even more pliable than full-term babies, are more susceptible to plagiocephaly. Babies from multiple pregnancies are also at higher risk because of being cramped in utero.

Infant lying on tummy with head raised and looking towards camera.

To reduce the risk of plagiocephaly, there are things that you can do to help your baby to vary their head position.


  • Alternate your baby’s head position between left and right each time you lay them down to sleep.
  • Encourage your baby to look at different angles at sleep time. You can place your baby at alternate ends of the cot, change the cot position, or put any toys or mobiles in different places to attract their attention.

Holding and carrying

  • Vary the positions you use to hold and carry your baby. You can use a sling, hold your baby upright for cuddles and carry the baby over your arm on their tummy or their side.


  • At playtime, place your baby on their tummy or side to play, starting with short periods of time. To ease your baby into tummy time, start by placing your baby belly-down on your chest when you’re reclining on a chair or propped on some pillows in bed, which will let your baby see your face and feel more secure. As your baby becomes more comfortable in this position, gradually increase the amount of tummy time.
  • You can also lay your baby on your lap or thighs and stroke down the baby’s back rhythmically, using a circular motion between the shoulder blades, or play finger games on the baby’s back, such as ‘walking’ with fingers. This helps your baby to relax and enjoy their time in this position.
  • As your baby becomes more comfortable you can place them on a blanket or play mat on their tummy or side. Pop a rolled-up towel under your baby’s chest to reduce pressure on their tummy.
  • Think about things that you can use to distract your baby. A safety mirror or brightly coloured toys placed in front of baby at playtime gives them things to look at and encourages your baby to reach out and shift their weight. You can also lie down and get face-to-face with your baby and make noises, sing or just talk.
  • It’s not a good idea to have tummy time when your baby has a full stomach as it can be uncomfortable. You should also avoid tummy time when your baby is tired because they probably won’t want to work hard to lift up their head.

More Information


Illustrated guides

  • Plagiocephaly

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