ASU LogoA baby’s sleep position seems to be the best predictor of a deformed skull condition called as deformational plagiocephaly. Atleast this is what scientists at Arizona State University claim.

This condition is also known as the development of flat spots on an infant’s head. The condition is thought to arise when babies seem to spend too much time in one position. For the purpose of the study, the authors were believed to have examined the largest database up till now with more than 20,000 children.

“We looked at a number of risk factors, but the largest factor was the sleep position of the baby,” says Brian Verrelli, an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences and scientist in the Center for Evolutionary Functional Genomics at the Biodesign Institute.

They found that the number of babies who have developed flat-headedness appear to have severely increased since 1992. The increase apparently coincides with the American Academy of Pediatrics launch of a ‘Back to Sleep’ educational campaign. This campaign is known to have recommended parents to place their infants on their backs to decrease the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

They also found that sleep position and particularly head position could possibly be associated to flat-headedness. Moreover, babies who slept on their right-side or left-side tended to have right-side and left-side flat spots, respectively.

Lead author of the study, Jessica Joganic, who was an ASU undergraduate student at the time of the study, said that, “The unprecedented size of the sample in our study allowed us to identify potential factors, such as maternal prenatal conditions and low birth weight that were previously unrecognized in smaller cohort studies. These other factors need to be explored further before we can begin to piece together the entire puzzle.”

The study findings revealed that boys appear to be twice as likely as girls to have the condition i.e. nearly in a perfect 2-to-1 ratio. In addition, it may perhaps be more common in first born infants, babies with low birth weight, in breech and transverse positions in the womb, and in multiple births, specifically fraternal twins.

This study was known to have been intended to statistically assess the independent and interacting effects of biological and environmental risk factors that lead to deformational plagiocephaly. Also, this study seems to have to have been considered in an attempt to provide potential guidance for clinical treatment.

However, independent of the biological and environmental factors, the findings showed that sleep position could possibly be the best predictor of deformational plagiocephaly. Moreover, it could be addressed by altering behavior.

The findings of the study ‘Risk Factors Associated With Deformational Plagiocephaly’ have been published in the journal, Pediatrics.