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Round Head

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Does Your Baby Have a Round Head?

 A surprising number of babies develop a flat spot on the back of their head.

This problem is more common than you thinkHealthy Canadian 2-month-olds were examined for head shape.  More than than 47% had some flattening at the back of their heads!  In a related study we found similar results in an online study of babies from various countries —  35%. Such flattening, known as plagiocephaly, is usually mild, but in some cases can be severe.  Why is this happening?

It’s an Unexpected Consequence of SIDS Prevention

About 30 years ago an Australian researcher, Susan Beals, found a link between babies’ sleeping on their stomachs and the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).  Sleeping on the tummy was more dangerous.  Beals’ research led to public health campaigns that encouraged parents to sleep their babies on their backs.  Most have followed this advice, and the number of sudden infant deaths has been halved in many countries.  Hurray!

Parents avoidance of stomach-sleeping meant that many babies are spending most of their time lying on their backs, even when they’re awake.  In the first months a baby’s skull is very soft, and it can be molded by external pressure.  If a baby is lying on their back on a firm surface, there is pressure on the back of their skull.  Too much back-lying can lead to flattening at the back of the head.

Prevent a Flat Spot on Your Baby’s Head

The good news is that you can do something to stop flattening. Watch the following video and learn about simple baby care practices that will vary your baby’s head position.  Moreover, you can take these steps at home, and they’re free.  It’s important, though, that you start as soon as possible.

 

How to Prevent Plagiocephaly (Flat Head Syndrome) from Mazer Media on Vimeo.

Size Matters

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Does Baby Size Matter?

You know that your baby’s growth is important. It’s a sign of general health, which is why it’s monitored by nurses and doctors. Growth that is too fast or too slow can be a sign of health problems.

The value of tracking growth is widely accepted. But what should you measure? How should you measure?

The Big 3 of Size

There are many possible aspects of growth to measure. Three are basic: Weight, length, and head circumference. The World Health Organization uses these core features of baby size worldwide.

Weight

Weight is the feature of growth we think of first. Other than gender, a baby’s weight may be the most mentioned feature of a newborn. Scales are common, so weight is the most widely used size measurement.

Length

Length is also familiar. It’s similar to height, but babies can’t stand. For this reason, infants and toddlers under 2 years are measured while they are lying down. Length is the distance from the top of the head to the soles of the feet. It is more difficult to measure than weight. Babies squirm and avoid straightening their legs.

Head Circumference

Head circumference is the baby’s hat size, the distance around the skull. It’s less familiar as an aspect of size. It’s important because the brain grows most in size before two years. The brain is covered by the skull, so the size of the skull reflects brain growth.

Measurement DIY

You can measure each of the Big 3. Want to know how? You will need the help of another adult and some household items. For details, follow these links for each of the Big 3:

Baby Weight Measurement DIY

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How to Measure Your Baby’s Weight

Put them on a scale, right?  Well, no.  Unless you have a scale designed for weights under 15kg (30 lbs).  Bathroom scales are designed for the weights of adults, adolescents, and older children.  You can bypass this problem by using the subtraction method.

Hold your baby and take a reading.  Then hand Baby to someone else and take a second reading.  The difference will be a good estimate of your baby’s weight.

The following video illustrates the procedure.

Measuring Baby Weight from Warren Eaton on Vimeo.

Compare your baby’s weight to world norms

Now that you have the subtraction weight result, compare your baby’s weight to norms developed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO collected size measurements from 8,440 children in 6 countries from various regions of the world.  These children were were not raised in environments with poor diets.  They were healthy and their mothers followed health practices such as breastfeeding and not smoking during and after pregnancy.

The WHO’s weight norms have separate charts for boys and girls.

If you have measured your baby in pounds, you’ll first need to convert from pounds to kilograms to use the chart.  Just divide your pounds’ result by 2.2 to get your baby’s weight in kilograms.

Do not treat the percentile result like a school grade.  A higher percentile is not better than a lower percentile.

Baby Head Measurement DIY

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Baby head measurement is tricky

Baby head measurement is one of 3 key measurements when it comes to monitoring baby and child growth. The distance around a person’s head is known as their head circumference.  Head circumference in infancy is particular important because it is related to the growth of the brain.

It’s not easy to measure head circumference.  Imagine measuring the distance around a volleyball with a tape or string.  You’ll get it right if you can do so at the equator of the ball. If your string slides up or down, your reading will be too low.

A person’s head is more difficult to measure than a ball because a head is lumpy and far from spherical.  Exactly where should you put the tape or string?  Measuring a baby can be even harder because they are apt to move and push the string away.  Never fear, here’s how to do it.

Supplies

  • Non-stretchable lace or piece of string that is at least 1 m (1 yard) long;
  • measuring tape, yard stick, or a meter stick;
  • paper and pencil;
  • helper (this is a 2-person job);
  • and, most crucially, a baby.

Step-by-step instructions

First, make sure that your baby has no items on his or her head that may interfere with the measurements, such as braids, barrettes, or ribbons.

Review the following video and record the length measurement in centimetres or inches on the paper.  If possible, record fractional parts of your unit of measurement.

Have your partner take their own reading — without knowing yours.  Compare the two readings.  It is likely that they differ.  If so, calculate the average of the two (an average is more reliable than either single reading).

Compare your baby’s head size to world norms

Now that you have your baby’s length, compare it to norms developed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO collected size measurements from 8,440 children in 6 countries from various regions of the world.  These children were were not raised in environments with poor diets.  They were healthy and their mothers followed health practices such as breastfeeding and not smoking during and after pregnancy.

The WHO’s head size norms have separate charts for boys and girls so be careful to select the right one.

If you have measured your baby in inches, you’ll first need to convert from inches to centimetres to inches use the chart.  Just multiply your inches’ result by 2.54 to get your baby’s size in centimetres.

Healthy babies can differ greatly in head size, and head circumference percentiles are a numerical way of describing them.  Do not treat the percentile result like a school grade.  A higher percentile is not better than a lower percentile.

Many factors can influence your baby’s head size.  For example, a baby born prematurely will have a smaller head size at 1 month of age than will a baby who was born a week after the due date.

However, an extremely small (<3%) or large (>97%) percentile may be a sign of developmental difficulty.  If this is the case for your baby, you should consult a health care professional.

 

Baby Length Measurement DIY

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Baby length measurement is tricky

One very important measure of baby size is length.  Baby length measurement is the distance from the top of the head to the soles of the feet while the baby is lying on their back on a flat surface.  Later, after they’re 2 years old, it’s much easier because they can be measured when standing.

Babies are very poor at following instructions.  They won’t stand against a wall or hold still when you want them to.  When they’re very young they can hardly straighten their legs.

Moreover, most households don’t have the tools like those found in some doctor’s offices.  However, it is possible to measure baby length with simple household equipment.

Needed Supplies

  • Paper and pencil;
  • Fine-point marker;
  • 2 cardboard cereal boxes (sealed or completely empty);
  • light-colored, non-stretchable lace or piece of string that is at least 1 m (1 yard) long;
  • measuring tape, yard stick, or a meter stick;
  • helper (this is a 2-person job);
  • floor space beside a wall;
  • and, most crucially, a baby.

Video instructions

Measuring Baby Length from Warren Eaton on Vimeo.

Compare your baby’s length to world norms

Now that you have your baby’s length, compare it to norms developed by the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO collected size measurements from 8,440 children in 6 countries from various regions of the world.  These children were were not raised in environments with poor diets.  They were healthy and their mothers followed health practices such as breastfeeding and not smoking during and after pregnancy.

The WHO’s length norms have separate charts for boys and girls so be careful to select the right one.

If you have measured your baby in inches, you’ll first need to convert from inches to centimetres to inches use the chart.  Just multiply your inches’ result by 2.54 to get your baby’s length in centimetres.

Do not treat the percentile result like a school grade.  A higher percentile is not better than a lower percentile.