Wednesday, August 02, 2000

Bed head

Here's the kind of news to drive a conscientious parent nutty: Putting infants to sleep on their backs, as is now the conventional wisdom to prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, can leave them with flat heads. Not flat hair--a flat head. We're talking a plane from the nape of the neck to the top of the noggin.

The problem appears to be the extreme malleability of the newborn skull; like anything else soft, if you place it agains a flat surface for long periods of time, it will take on a flat surface itself. This is okay if you're talking about, say, a ball of Play-Doh, but not so cool when it's your baby's head. Remedies for this radical form of bed head range from making the child wear a plastic helmet to reform the skull (yowch!) to plastic surgery to reshape the head and reposition the ears, which sometimes end up skewed.

If all this makes you want to plop baby back on his or her stomach, the American Academy of Pediatrics says--Don't! A little skull rearrangement is a small price to pay for stayin' alive, and that organization is so proud of the decrease in SIDS since it started recommending back-sleeping that they're willing to risk some deformities. They do recommend moving baby's head from time to time, presumably to get a nice faceted effect instead of one big flat surface.

But here's the thing: You can go along being a good parent, following the pediatrician's orders, observing the latest advice, doing everything you can to keep your baby safe, and still end up disfiguring the kid. How on earth do parents of infants keep from being complete nervous wrecks? If you ask me, this is just another good reason for bypassing infancy altogether and adopting children who are well past the newborn stage. Their heads may be small, but at least they're round.

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