Do Infants with ‘Skull Flat Spots’ Really Need Corrective Helmets?

iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Twenty years ago, a so-called “Back to Sleep” campaign was initiated to encourage parents to place babies on their backs when they sleep to reduce the incidence of crib deaths.

Because infants have a tendency to lie in one position, their skulls often develop a “flat spot” -- a condition that doctors in certain cases try to remedy with a helmet to round the head.

Researchers in Netherlands recently decided to examine if the helmets made any difference by following 84 babies with moderate or severe “positional skull deformations.”

Half the infants were put into custom helmets while the other half had no treatment.

After two years, the level of improvement was similar between the two groups: 25.6 percent for the helmet group and 22.5 percent for those without.

In addition, parental satisfaction with head shape was similar for both groups.

The babies assigned helmets wore them 23 hours a day for six months and nearly all their parents reported negative side effects such as skin irritation, sweating and discomfort when cuddling.

Experts note that while positional deformations should still be prevented, helmets should be considered on an individual basis and not as routine care.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

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