torticollis and car seats

Torticollis, Plagiocephaly and Car Seats



Many times, babies with torticollis will develop plagiocephaly, or misshapen head. Babies develop these flat spots on one or more parts of their heads because they often sleep in the same position for prolonged period of time. Quite a few parents I know like to keep their children in car seats because they sleep better in that cradled position. If you are worried about your baby’s head shape, or if he starts to show a preference for the way he holds his head in the car seat, read on for three tips to help decrease the likelihood of plagiocephaly and improve his torticollis.

3 Tips for Reducing Plagiocephaly and Improving Torticollis in the Car Seat:

  1. Get him out of the car seat as much as possible. It may sound obvious, but car seats are really only to be used in cars. I know it’s easier to carry a sleeping infant in and out of places while they are in a car seat, but the best position for a baby is still on his tummy. Babies with torticollis are going to hate tummy time at first, but they eventually learn to like it (click here for some easy alternatives for tummy time). Even just doing tummy time over a boppy or a towel roll will help get them off their flat spot, strengthen their neck muscles, and help round out their head. Just remember, all tummy time should be supervised, whether the child is asleep or not.
  2. Place objects on the opposite side. If your baby likes to look out the window he’s next to when he’s in the car seat, switch things up and put him near the other window instead. If he likes to look to the right side all the time in the car seat, put dangling toys to the left side. Young infants are attracted to bright lights, yellow or red colors, faces, and rattle sounds. Use toys and mirrors to get him looking the other way.
  3. Try props. Props such as towel rolls and little foam cushions should only be used if they can be separated from the baby by a barrier that prevent babies from wiggling into the towels. Some infant car seats have a little shield between the baby and the soft padding of the carrier. I always recommend propping the towel rolls behind the shield and underneath the side of the head they prefer to lie on. This gets them to turn their head more to the other side. It does the same job as the Tortle hat, and babies tolerate it much better than wearing a beanie.

If you are still having trouble keeping your little one off his flat spot while he is in the car seat, or if you are noticing a head shape change, bring him (and the car seat) in to one of our physical therapy specialists, and we will help turn things around.

Click here to read more about plagiocephaly helmets from a therapist’s perspective!