My son wore his first cranial helmet for nearly 4 months before growing out of it. His head looked significantly better, but the measurements could still improve. Making the decision to move forward with a second helmet was easy, despite the 4-hour drive to our nearest clinic. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions regarding the treatment process that I wish I knew before beginning the whole process. Also, it’s an excuse to post a ton of photos of my little guy 🙂
Cranial Helmet FAQ’s
- How do I know if my baby needs a cranial helmet?
You might be able to see that your baby’s head has a flat spot, or it is not as round as you might like. In some cases, your pediatrician might notice your baby’s head shape first. Evaluations for cranial helmets are free. If you think your baby may need a cranial helmet, asking your pediatrician is a good place to start.
- My pediatrician does not recommend a cranial helmet. Now what?
If you think your baby needs a cranial helmet, but your pediatrician does not support you, see another pediatrician. Insurance will require a prescription for the cranial helmet from a pediatrician in order to approve it.
- At what age should I get my baby evaluated for a cranial helmet?
The earlier the better. The age at which a child receives a cranial helmet is directly related to the length of time they are required to wear it. A younger baby may only wear a cranial helmet for six weeks, while an older child is likely to wear a cranial helmet for several months. By 18 months, a baby’s skull hardens and the cranial helmet is no longer effective.
- What will happen at the first evaluation appointment for a cranial helmet?
A description of how the initial evaluation works is described in a previous blog post here.
- My baby has a red mark. Should I leave the cranial helmet off?
Yes. If a red mark does not go away during the one-hour helmet break, leave it off and call your clinic. The cranial helmet may need adjusted.
- My baby’s cranial helmet stinks. How do I get rid of the odor?
Clean the cranial helmet as directed by your clinic (typically it should be cleansed with 70% alcohol every day). It is also safe to apply Fresh Wave spray and/or set the cranial helmet in the sun to dry after cleaning.
- My baby’s cranial helmet sits low on his/her eyebrows. Is this normal?
Yes, especially for younger babies. The cranial helmet will shift as baby grows and clinicians regularly make adjustments.
- My baby won’t sleep with the cranial helmet. What do I do?
Don’t take the cranial helmet off. That tells your baby that it will be removed when he/she cries. Leave it on, and baby will get used to sleeping with it. In my son’s case, he had a difficult time sleeping without the cranial helmet after the first week.
- It’s too hot for the cranial helmet. What should I do?
Take it off. If you are visiting the pool or beach or will be outside in the heat for an extended period of time, take the helmet off. If your baby gets heat rash, he/she will be forced out of the helmet for multiple days. Removing it for a few hours is the better choice.
- Do I need to buy certain clothes for my baby while he/she is in the cranial helmet?
No. It is perfectly fine to remove the helmet when dressing baby. There is no need to purchase helmet-friendly clothes.
- What should my baby sleep in with the cranial helmet?
That depends on the temperature where baby sleeps. We keep the temperature in our home around 72 degrees. Our baby only sleeps in a onesie while wearing his cranial helmet.
- My baby started sleeping on his/her stomach when he/she got a cranial helmet. Is it safe?
Turning to the stomach is common for babies with cranial helmets. The helmet lifts baby’s face away from the sleeping surface to allow breathing. If baby can turn over own their own, let them be. He/she will move if it is uncomfortable. Of course, all loose blankets and toys should be removed from the baby’s sleeping area according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
- How much does the cranial helmet weigh?
A few ounces. Cranial helmets are much lighter than they look.
- My baby has a fever. Should I leave the cranial helmet off?
Yes. Put the helmet back on when baby’s temperature has gone back to normal.
- What do I say to strangers who ask about my baby’s cranial helmet?
This one is hard, but be polite. They are asking because they are ignorant about the cranial helmet. Use it as a teaching moment to explain what the cranial helmet is, how it works, and why your baby has to wear it. I say something along these lines, “My baby had a difficult birth that left him with a misshapen head. His helmet is rounding it out. It doesn’t hurt or bother him at all.”
- How do I decorate my baby’s cranial helmet?
There are many ways to decorate a cranial helmet: stickers, Mod Podge, craft paint, bows, flowers, and vehicle wraps. Keep safety in mind when decorating a cranial helmet. Do not use sequins or any small pieces that baby may be able to pull off and choke on. Dry erase markers can easily be wiped off for a temporary embellishment (perfect for milestone photos!).
- How do I get my baby’s cranial helmet wrapped?
Some companies that wrap vehicles will wrap cranial helmets. Call companies in your area to see if they will wrap a cranial helmet. Some companies offer the service pro bono.
- What do you do with the cranial helmet after treatment?
Many parents place the cranial helmet on a stuffed animal to save it. Cranial helmets fit nicely on Build-A-Bear stuffed animals.
- Will my baby need a second cranial helmet?
That depends on many factors. Only your clinician can recommend a second cranial helmet for medical reasons.
If you have further questions, I highly recommend joining the Pagiocephaly and Torticollis Support Babies in Cranial Helmets Facebook group. It is filled with thousands of parents who have likely experienced what you are going through and are happy to help.