Holly has been a fantastic sleeper since about 11 weeks old. The first time she slept through the night, my husband and I woke up with that cautious hesitance like, “She’s still alive, right?” She now regularly sleeps 7 p.m. through 7 a.m., with the occasional shriek or whining for her pacifier. To say we’re lucky is an understatement; we’ve become parents with lots more rest than most.
The only downside to having a fantastic sleeper is that our little dreamer has developed a flat head. Our pediatrician noticed it at two months, and recommended we do more tummy time. Holly was a tummy time champ, but that didn’t help. Even with lots of tummy time, she slept like a starfish, on her back, arms and legs splayed out, for twelve rockin’ hours at a time. At her four month appointment, the pediatrician gave us a referral to a prosthetic clinic to have her evaluated for a helmet. I felt defensive and unsure at first. I felt like the insinuation was that we did something wrong, that we didn’t do enough of something (tummy time) and that it was our rickety first time parenting skills to blame for her flat little head. We went to the consultation, and sure enough, Holly’s head flatness was ranked as severe. We are lucky that she has no facial asymmetry or ear imbalance, as some kiddos with flat spots or heads can have uneven facial features or ears. While there’s very little medical risk of not fixing a flat head, there are a few complications that can arise: self-consciousness, or in more extreme cases, a risk of sunglasses, bike helmets, and hats not fitting properly. We were given all of the facts and the price, and left feeling confused.
On one hand, it’s a cosmetic problem. There was a small chance it could even itself out. However, if it didn’t even out and Holly became a self-conscious teenager, would we regret forever that we didn’t handle it? Then there was the time commitment. The helmet must be worn constantly — 23 hours a day, with just one hour off for bathing. Holly’s severity will likely take about four months to correct itself, hopefully sooner. Did I really want my girl to have people staring at her in public? What about when people say something? How could I manage without kissing that fuzzy little head? Matt and I were both torn, but eventually, polled family and friends close to us. I was lucky enough to have a coworker and friend who had experienced the same situation with her daughter. She gave me all the facts and basically she doesn’t regret for a second that they fixed their daughter’s head. We continued asking family and friends, and their opinions were unanimously to move forward. So, we did — and were very glad that insurance covered all but $800 of the $4,000 bill.
We had a few appointments to take head measurements, and at the final measuring appointment, Holly had to wear a sock like thing on her head for a few minutes. A scan gun took the dimensions of her head, and that was it. It was painless, quick, and easy. We chose the color (a very girly heart pattern), and came back a week later for the final fitting and adjustments. Our tech marked where her ears, forehead and skull lined up, and contoured the edges of the helmet for comfort and to frame her face.
When it came time to put the helmet on, Holly didn’t even flinch. She’s been wearing it like a pro for two days now — even when she sleeps. She doesn’t even seem to notice it’s there. So far, it’s exactly like my fellow helmet-head parent told me: it’s worse on the parents than it is on the kids. One of my concerns was what people would say about her helmet — if they’d make fun of her, or make ignorant comments. I know it’s going to happen, and it makes me feel deeply for the parents of children who have unique needs. I was initially sad when making the decision to get the helmet, but once we decided to do it, I’ve “put on my big girl panties” and decided it is what it is, it’s not a big deal, and it’s time to move on with life. I hope to help educate people about why helmets are necessary, and it doesn’t mean anything is “wrong” with my daughter, just that her head is a little more flat than it should be.
I’ll update you all with the progress when Holly’s helmeting is complete, but in the meantime, if you see a kiddo wearing a helmet, this is why. As usual, I think it’s important to share stories of personal experiences, because at some point, somebody you know will have a similar problem (and I have a friend on Facebook who’s contemplating a helmet as I type this). For now, Holly will continue to sleep her glorious twelve hours, little hands and legs stretched out like a starfish, dreaming of rounder times ahead. 🙂