Tips for Getting Your Child Used to a Cranial Helmet

Helmets are standard equipment for many athletes, and in many cases, they’re a lifesaver. But if your baby needs a cranial helmet, it’s not to protect them from a crushing tackle, but rather to correct a deformity and gently guide skull development.

Nothing’s more important than your child’s health and safety, so getting a perfect fit is critical. At Ortho Engineering, Inc., that’s all we do — we design and manufacture orthoses and prosthetics to support people with all kinds of physical impairments. 

If your baby needs the aid of a cranial helmet, you can trust our experience and expertise to make sure the fit is precise, the helmet is comfortable, and the advanced design will ensure the treatment is effective and as brief as possible. 

Here’s what you need to know about cranial helmets and how to help your child adjust to them. 

Why your baby may need a helmet

During the first year of your baby’s life, their brain size doubles, and by age 2, it’s three-quarters its final size. Their protective skull isn’t a solid piece at this age, but a series of bony plates held together by fibrous sutures. As the brain grows, the plates and sutures flex and expand to accommodate it. 

However, the flexibility also has a downside — sustained pressure, such as the type caused by sleeping in one position, can flatten the skull. There are three main types of pediatric skull deformities:

  1. Deformational plagiocephaly: flattened spot from sleeping in one position
  2. Brachycephaly: a shorter-than-normal skull
  3. Scaphocephaly: positional deformity also known as NICUcephaly as it happens to babies who spend a long time in the NICU, often on their side

Of course, there are other conditions that may warrant helmet therapy as well, but these are the most common. Whatever the reason, the answer may be a cranial helmet. We make several types of pediatric helmets, but the concept is typically the same for all: a hard outer shell and a foam interior designed to inhibit growth in one area and promote it another. 

Even if your baby continues to sleep in the position that caused the problem in the first place, the helmet will cradle the skull and prevent flat spots. 

Adjusting to the pediatric cranial helmet

To be honest, most babies transition to the helmet very quickly and with less resistance than you might expect, but here are a few tips to help ease the way.

Check your own emotions

Often the biggest obstacle to successful helmet therapy is the parent. Feeling a sense of guilt about the condition can cause parents to bring negative feelings to the experience. But it’s not your fault! There’s nothing you did wrong that caused this condition. It’s important to accept that so you can create a happy, positive experience for your child.

Make a positive connection

Your baby picks up on your emotional cues, so make helmet time happy. Play music, introduce a new toy, read a book, or play peek-a-boo — engage in whatever activity your child loves so they associate the helmet with positivity.

Educate yourself

If you don’t understand the reason for helmet therapy, you may be less apt to use it diligently. Talk to your doctor in detail, ask questions, and do your own research. You’re your baby’s most fierce advocate, so be informed. 

For starters, know that the cranial helmet is a type of pediatric orthosis that supports growth and development in early life. Just like braces for knees and ankles, a cranial helmet trains the bones to form and fuse properly. By choosing helmet therapy, you’re giving your child the best chance to develop a healthy skull.

Decorate the helmet

We’ve seen all sorts of creative approaches to helmet décor, from stickers to airbrushing to Halloween-esque faces and headpieces. As long as you use nontoxic materials, the sky’s the limit!

Watch for signs of discomfort

We design your baby’s helmet to be comfortable and wearable for many hours at a time, so your child should reflect that in their demeanor. If you notice your baby tugging, shifting, or reaching under the helmet to scratch, then we need to make some adjustments. 

Take care of the helmet

It’s important to clean the helmet thoroughly every day to keep bacteria from building up. We recommend bathtime. When you remove the helmet to bathe your baby, wash the helmet, too. If you ever notice foul smells or see any damage, let us know.

Depending on your baby’s exact condition, age, and stage of skull development, the total treatment time varies, but you can expect an average of three months. Your doctor will monitor progress frequently to keep an eye on your baby’s head. 

If you have any questions about the design and manufacturing process of your baby’s cranial helmet, contact us at any of our nine Southern California locations. 

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