Why do babies have to wear helmets?

Why do babies have to wear helmets?

(ThankYourBaby.com) – Why do babies have to wear helmets? You have probably seen once a baby wearing a helmet and you didn’t know why. We were also wondering the same so we decided to investigate why babies have to wear helmets. Generally, helmet has a function to reshape perfectly functioning baby’s head.

This can happen because when fetus develops the bones of the skull are flexible and sutures are not fused. This makes conditions for passage through birth canal and can cause the head flattening. In this article you will find the answers to most important FAQ’s about baby helmet therapy, the reasons for wearing helmets and the general procedure.

What is helmet therapy?

Helmet therapy is also called cranial orthosis. This is a kind of baby treatment that has a purpose to help correct the shape of baby’s skull.

How the process of getting baby helmet looks like?

Helmet is recommended by baby’s doctor after the evaluation of the baby’s head shape. Then the parent will get the referral from the doctor to a certified orthotist so the appropriate helmet can be made for a baby.

How baby helmets work?

Baby helmets can correct baby’s skull by directing the growth from the flat spot, but this works just if they are worn during the time when skull and the brain as well is actively growing.

When is the right time for a baby to start wearing a helmet?

If the positional plagiocephaly is diagnosed earlier and it is started with the helmet therapy, you will need shorter time to get the results.

If the baby has 6-8 monts or it has failed to improve with conservative treatments, you can still buy a helmet for it, but in that case a child will have to wear it for a longer time period.

The Helmets won’t be effective after the brain growth is finished. It is also interesting the fact that three quarters of brain growth happens by age 2.

What could be the reasons why baby have to wear helmets?


Plagiocephaly stands for the most common reason for baby to wear a helmet. This is condition of baby’s skull when only one part of the head is flattened. It can happen because of several causes.

There are babies born with condition torticollis. That means they have a shortened muscle on one side of the neck. This can make a baby turn its head frequently to the same side. As this happens often during baby’s sleep, it can cause a flattening of the pliable bones of the skull.

This skull deformation can also happen to premature that have to be repositioned frequently. Sick infants spend much time resting and having their heads turned in one direction and that can cause flattening.

Plagiocephaly can also appear in utero, especially in multiple gestation pregnancy when one baby pushes up against another and makes pressure on the skull.


Brachycephaly is the situation when the back of baby’s head is flattened which makes a wider portion of the skull in the back than the front.

The reason for this deformation can be craniosynostosis which means that baby has a rare closure of the skull sutures before it is fully developed. This happens in small percentage of cases and it can be corrected with cranial surgery and post-operative helmet therapy.

This can also happen if the baby is repeatedly placed on its back during sleeping in order to avoid sudden infant death syndrome. If the baby doesn’t spend much time in other sleeping positions or play time when it lies on its tummy, it can occur that the head becomes flattened and abnormally wide.


This appearance on baby’s skull is also called sagittal synostosis. It means that the middle sutures of baby’s skull are closed. This can be the reason of having a high midline of the skull and the brain going upward. When baby has closed sutures, its brain continues to grow toward the area where sutures are not fused. In this case baby’s brain grows from back to front and the consequence is an elongated head that needs a helmet to be corrected.

Is helmet therapy the only treatment for a baby to get rid of plagiocephaly?

There are many situations when baby’s doctor can recommend a trial of conservative treatments. That involves physical therapy that has a purpose to show if the problem with the head shape will be corrected without using helmet. It is a common case when a baby has torticollis and baby’s neck in in a twisted position tilting its head to one side with baby’s chin pointing to the other side. When this happens, physical therapy can help to cure muscle weakness and head turning preferences in order to improve plagiocephaly.

In case a baby doesn’t respond to physical therapy and repositioning techniques there should be used baby helmets.

Does insurance covers helmet therapy?

In order to determine the type and level of coverage and what documents are needed from a child’s doctor you should contact the insurance company and employer benefits coordinator.

Insurance depends on types of coverage, but helmet therapy is financed as medically necessary and that can be found under specific guidelines.

What are the trainings that orthotists should pass to be specialized in positional plagiocephaly?

There are only a couple of universities in the U.S. that offer programs for orthotics. The programs must be in accordance to criteria set by the American Board for Certification in Orthotics, Prosthetics and Pedorthotics.

When orthotist finishes successfully the formal educational training, he or she goes further to redicency program under the supervision of a certified practitioner in order to have practical experience.  The condition for resident to submit an application to take a written and practical examination is to have a year’s experience and references. If a resident finishes the exam successfully he or she can use the credentials of certified orthotist (C.O.). That is why it is very important that parents check that the orthotist that will take care of their baby is certified as a C.O.

What is the procedure to fit the baby for a helmet?

A custom-fitted helmed is designed according to baby’s head measurements taken with a laser light scan that can take baby’s head shape or the orthotist can make a plaster mold instead of that.

Helmet is made with foam lining that could need later adjustments after a child wears it for some time. Helmet’s function is to hold the round parts of the skull steady while letting the flat spot to grow and round out on its own.

Is it necessary that baby wears a helmet all day?

Every baby doctor will tell you that baby should wear the helmet 23 hours each day. You can take it off when you bath your little one.

Does wearing helmet have side effects?

In case a baby wears a helmet in right way, there shouldn’t be problems like discomfort, skin irritation or bad odor. If you notice some of these problems, you should go to orthotist to adjust the helmet to your baby’s head. Most of the babies adapt easily to helmets.

How long a baby has to wear a helmet?

The time varies from case to case. One more factor that also determines the time of wearing a baby helmet is the age when helmet therapy started. Considering that, the helmet can shape baby’s head in very short time.

You should also visit your baby’s orthotist often in order to check baby’s progress. There are cases where baby needs only 1 to 2 months to change the shape of its head. On the other hand, there are cases where it takes from 3 to 4 months and sometimes the second helmet is needed as well.


Baby helmets have a purpose to modify the shape of baby’s head. The reasons why babies have to wear helmets are plagiocephaly (condition when only one part of baby’s head is flattened), brachycephaly (when the back of baby’s head is flattened which makes a wider portion of the skull in the back than the front) and scaphocephaly or synostotis when the middle sutures of baby’s skull are closed. The most important thing when choosing an orthotist that will take care of your baby is to check if it is certified as a C.O.