Why My Baby Wears a Cranial Helmet
Our son, Sadler wears a cranial helmet, and we receive lots of questions about it. This post provides some answers about why head needs it and the process to get it.
Sadler was born with a misshapen head most likely attributed to his position in the womb. Babies can also get flat spots from sleeping on their back and spending time in one spot in a car seat. Our pediatrician recommended re-positioning Sadler’s head when possible and doing extra tummy time. She believed it would even out over time, and we were seeing some improvement. At that point we were living in our RV in Prescott Valley, AZ.
When Sadler was 6 months old we moved the RV to Scottsdale, AZ and changed pediatricians. Our new doctor referred us to Cranial Technologies for a free evaluation of the skull. There was no risk, and with offices in nearby Phoenix and Mesa, we scheduled an appointment.
At the appointment, a loose fitting pantyhose-like net was placed over the baby’s head to tame hair and accentuate his head shape for some high-tech photos.
A state-of-the-art Digital Surface Imaging (DSi) system generated a 3D computer image of Sadler’s head shape, captured instantaneously. It was specifically developed to evaluate the head shape of babies by using 15 high-resolution cameras, rather than X-rays or lasers. The DSi poses no safety risk and is accurate to within 0.25 mm, the width of a credit card.
Based on the photos and a generated report, the doctor diagnosed Sadler with plagiocephaly, sometimes known as “flat head syndrome”. It is a relatively common condition where an infant develops a flat spot on the back or side of the head. Without treatment, pagiocephaly can lead to noticeable facial asymmetry (which we were already starting to see with Sadler), poorly fitting safety equipment including sports helmets, and jaw misalignment resulting in a crossbite or underbite. It can be treated with a cranial helmet. The cranial helmet applies custom, corrective pressure to redirect the baby’s natural head growth into a normal head shape.
The next step was an insurance review. Cranial Technologies had specialists that contacted our insurance provider within two days to determine benefits and payment options. Our insurance carrier deemed the cranial helmet unnecessary and would not cover any portion of treatment. Awesome.
Babies typically wear the band for several months, and they are only effective until the child is 18 months old. The skull begins to harden at that point, so we knew we needed to move forward with treatment, regardless of the price. We set up a payment plan to cover the $5,000 device.
The next day I was thrilled to receive a job offer in southwestern Virginia. I asked the human resources staff for information on their insurance plans and forwarded it to Cranial Technologies. Based on that information, Cranial Technologies (a nationwide company) recommended an insurance plan for Sadler that would cover the majority of the cost of the cranial helmet. We decided to place the process on hold until our move was completed and the new plan began.
Then things got a little more complicated when our RV was totaled. It took longer than expected to figure out housing, transportation, and the whole family’s medical needs, but Cranial Technologies was prepared to pick up right where we left off. The only downside was that the closest clinic to our new home was 4 hours away in Charlotte, NC.
Being the dedicated dad that he is, Dave didn’t hesitate to agree to make the trip to Charlotte – multiple times – while I worked at my new job. Since it had been over a month since Sadler’s evaluation, he needed a new set of precision images that would be used to custom make the cranial helmet.
A week later, Dave and Sadler made the trip again to get fitted. The Cranial Technologies clinics are definitely set up with babies in mind. Each exam room has age-appropriate toys to keep baby happy. We have been impressed with their level of professionalism and friendliness at every interaction.
Staff made adjustments to Sadler’s helmet to maximize its comfort and effectiveness.
Meanwhile this happy camper was having a blast in the exam room.
Staff checked the helmet for fit and explained wear and care information to Dad. For the first two days, the band was removed every 3-4 hours to check for redness, etc. Sadler didn’t seem to notice there was anything on his head, further proving that he is the best baby ever. The device is extremely light weight too.
Showing no signs of discomfort, Sadler wore the cranial helmet for 23 hours on the second day and each day since for optimal treatment. It is only removed for cleaning (both helmet and baby). Depending on his progress, Sadler will have growth adjustment appointments weekly or biweekly.
The treatment process for plagiocephaly is temporary and proven. It took some logistical work, but Cranial Technologies has been wonderful to work with all across the country. I highly recommend them.
Update: Sadler has now graduated from wearing two helmets for eight months. If you liked this post, you might also be interested in my Cranial Helmet FAQ’s Answered by a Mom.