Cranial Helmet

Our Cranial Helmet Journey

At our two-week check-up, our Pediatrician had two goals for our new family of three: Sleep through the night by 12 weeks and ‘no helmet.’ As first-time parents and avid Moms on Call followers, we took his notes seriously. We tediously followed the Moms on Call schedule, did 30 minutes of tummy time per day, and never looked back.

Luckily for us, our newborn was sleeping through the night at 3 weeks. We had it made! That is until I realized that whenever she slept at night, she found one position that she loved and never moved. When she napped, she napped on that side. When she played on her playmat or in her bouncy seat, she favored that side. No matter how we adjusted and stretched, our baby’s neck got tighter and tighter, and she developed what we now know as Torticollis. We went back to the pediatrician, and he sent us to Cranial Technologies for a consultation.

At our first visit (12 weeks old), we met with a clinician who expertly guided us through the process of deciding if a cranial helmet, specifically a DOC Band, was right for our baby. We learned that we weren’t alone: a surprising 1 in 4 infants have moderate to severe Plagiocephaly (commonly known as ‘flat head syndrome’). Along with learning more extensive head shape details, we also learned that this is completely common in babies that sleep through the night early to develop torticollis, which then inhibits them from head movement and causes their heads to flatten. 3D images were taken of our baby’s head, and a report detailing the severity of her head shape was given immediately following. The results? Her head was in the moderate-severe range, and we were advised to move forward with a cranial helmet to correct her plagiocephaly.

After the visit, my mom instincts kicked in. This felt like the very first big decision I needed to make for my baby, and one appointment wasn’t going to cut it. I did my research, got a second opinion, and after much consideration, our family decided to move forward with the cranial helmet as early as possible (4 months old) in order to shorten treatment time and graduate by Summer. We stumbled our way through the first few weeks, hit our stride, and then completed treatment after 9 weeks of sporting the DOC Band cranial helmet.

What I Wish I Knew

  • The first week is harder on the mom than it is on the baby. I remember coming home with the DOC Band and my nanny asking if I was ok. Almost immediately, I burst into tears. There was a lot of guilt in the early days and worry that I could have done something differently to protect my baby from this experience. Having a support system in all big decisions has been so key, and I wish I had communicated that I was struggling with it more. Baby, on the other hand, was uncomfortable for about a day and settled into her new accessory seamlessly. If you’re moving forward with a cranial helmet, make sure you’re surrounded by educated friends who can give you a hug and pick you up on that first day, if you’re like me you’ll need it!
  • Time flies. The number one piece of parenting advice rang true throughout this experience; 9 weeks went by in a flash!
  • You know what to do for your child, go with your gut. I drove myself crazy over this decision, to the point where I was averse to moving forward with treatment even after our second opinion (a pediatric plastic surgeon) told us we needed to do something. If I had gone with my gut in that initial consultation and trusted the experts, it would have saved me a lot of anxiety around the entire process.
  • Weekly appointments that aren’t a bore. Mark your calendar because once you move forward with a cranial helmet, you are expected to check in with Cranial Technologies weekly. The process is time consuming, but they do absolutely everything to make you and your family comfortable throughout. The technology that they use to capture 3D images of your growing baby’s head is so impressive, and we always walked away from visits at peace and excited for the next.
  • People expect an explanation. I quickly learned that people are extremely uncomfortable around situations that are foreign to them. We received several questions and comments along the lines of ‘does she have major brain damage’ and ‘is she going to be ok’, which led me to dread being in public with the DOC band. I soon realized that if I worried less about what people were going to say, and more about what my response would be, having conversations about how common this issue is came easy.

What Surprised Me

  • Babies are so adaptable. At one point, our baby started crying when we took off the band! Babies are so incredibly adaptable, and our new accessory fit easily into our usual routine. With DOC Band treatment, the baby wears the band for 23 hours per day, and that last hour is bath time. At this time, the band must be washed and dried out.
  • The band weighs 4oz. Although the band looks bulky, it is extremely lightweight and does not interfere with activities. Our baby learned to flip over in the crib and sit up in the band without fail.
  • The earlier the treatment the better, results within weeks: We chose to seek treatment as soon as possible, because the younger the baby, the easier it is to reshape their head. If we had waited to see if her head had corrected itself, we could have had a band for 6 months, when our total treatment time was 9 weeks.

We are so unbelievably grateful for the team who met with us weekly, who treated our baby with such wonderful care, and who made such a major difference in such a short amount of time. I’m sharing our story because while tough, this process is completely normal and common, and it is unfortunately so misunderstood. We’re hoping that this story helps at least one family struggling to decide what is right for their baby in what can be a really confusing and challenging time, and a quick reminder that giving yourself grace is the way to go. Our babies are so much stronger than we know!

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