There are a million and one things to worry about when you're a new parent, but most moms tend to pick one or two subjects that are the focus of their obsession. For me, it was the fear that my kids would end up with flat or misshapen heads.
Before I gave birth, I didn't even know that babies could develop flat spots on their heads. My boys Remy and Lolo were both born prematurely, at 33 weeks old. One of the many things I learned from the NICU nurses was about plagiocephaly, the technical term for when a baby develops a flat spot from being in the same position on his back for long periods of time. Plagiocephaly is a fear for any newborn, but even more so with premature babies, whose skulls are still developing.
I noticed the nurses would turn my sleeping babies' heads from side to side like actually clockwork, keeping notes on a chart so other nurses who took over their shifts would know when it was time to change positions. It became my goal during those first few months of weeks to ensure that my boys' melons would be perfectly symmetrical.
When the boys came home from the hospital a few weeks after they were born, I kept up with their constant head rotation schedules. Yet although I was quite diligent about it, I still noticed the boys' heads were slightly misshaped. Remy was almost totally flat across the back of his head, while Lolo had more of a triangle/Phineas and Ferb thing going.
I knew that most doctors recommended the boys should sleep on their backs to prevent SIDS, even though doing so could put them at increased risk for developing flat heads. Since I had two babies and also wanted to accomplish things during the day like peeing and eating food, simply holding them in my arms so their heads wouldn't be flat against the floor, bed or baby seat was out (though I did try for a couple days and wound up with an awful exhaustion-induced cold).
I started to come up with some other creative ways to get them off the back of their heads. Tummy time was a good way to relieve the pressure on the backs of their heads, and luckily for me, they loved it. Because I didn't want to put them in strollers for walks where they would be laying flat against the seats, I bought a few baby carriers, and proudly told my husband that we were "those" kinds of parents now — not because we believed in any sort of attachment parenting philosophy, but just because having the babies strapped to our chests meant they wouldn't have any pressure on the backs of their heads.
In those early months, I even pestered my pediatrician about getting the boys some of those snazzy head-shaping helmets I saw other babies wearing in the calendars that adorned the reception area. While our pediatrician admitted that he could see some flattening of the boys' heads, he assured me that as their heads grew, they would grow into their head shapes, so the helmets were unnecessary. He said they would be just fine.
Flash forward three years later, and an aerial view of my boys' skulls reveals that my pediatrician was wrong. The back of Remy's head could hold a glass of water without spilling a drop and Lolo still has this three-corner slope thing going on behind his left ear. My boys are gorgeous, but let's all hope they never have to try and pull off Bruce Willis' hairstyle, because bald would not be a good look on either of them.
So yes, my kids have flat heads. But my pediatrician was right about one thing: they're totally fine. After all, having a head that's less than perfectly round doesn't have any impact on a child's brain function or development. And while I can see that their heads are slightly oddly shaped, so far none their friends at school or any of the other moms I hang out with have mentioned it. The few times that I've brought the subject up, many other moms point out that their own kids' heads aren't exactly symmetrical, which I never would have noticed if they hadn't brought it to my attention.
It feels silly now to think about how much time I spent as a new mom obsessing over something that just isn't a big deal. My kids' head shapes don't matter — what matters is that they're healthy. In the grand scheme of things, having a flat head just isn't something to worry your own head about.