His Name Isn’t Helmut

Last weekend my son and I cleaned up his room. It’s concurrently heartwarming and disgusting to sort through a boy’s closet… sweaty sweat socks, a long forgotten baby blanket, a rotten apple, a picture he drew in kindergarten, a dust bunny the size of a melon nestled next to a mouldy drink cup, and the helmet he wore as a baby.


Of course I put my baby to sleep on his back. It was the safest thing to do. Plagiocephaly – or flat head syndrome — has increased 600 percent over the past 20 years, with the advent of the important life-saving “back to sleep” philosophy. My poor babe also had torticollis (unbalanced neck muscles) so he always turned his neck slightly to the left resulting in consistent pressure on the right rear side of his downy soft head.


He was a very large baby who stubbornly tried to enter the world sideways. During the last stages of labour he was stuck for a long time. He was in distress and his heart rate dropped dangerously low and doctors rushed to get him out. The aggressive use of the clamps and suction from the vacuum left our little guy with an impressive cone head and significant bruising on his temples which contributed to his unfortunate cranial situation.

I’d almost completely forgotten about it all — the worry and the tears and the guilt for making him wear that uncomfortable helmet all those years ago. At the time I thought my heart would break. Looking back now, I’m thankful we were able to correct the situation. It seems like such a little thing now. In fact, I miss him in his little “hockey” helmet.

That was over a decade ago. He’s so grown up now — our good natured boy, so kind and smart and funny. And round headed. 🙂

A friend popped in as we were cleaning and I showed her the helmet. “I forgot about that!” she laughed. “His helmet, Avery’s leg braces… you’ve had quite a go of it.”

Avery’s leg braces (she still wears corrective devices, but they’re just simple supports contained within her shoes) were hard to deal with at the time. Like with my son’s helmet, people stared. It was awkward. If I could go back in time I would tell my worried self that it would be okay — that we’d breeze through it. I’d tell myself to relax; that there are many other families with helmets and braces and other challenges. Different isn’t quite as different as one might think.

As we face new challenges — most of them social rather than physical now, I try to remind myself that it will be okay. There will be awkward moments, people will stare, but we’ll get through it and look back and marvel at how magnificent yesterday was. 

Addendum: As I was writing this post, a press release popped into my inbox about a new lightweight beanie that may be the solution to flat head syndrome in infants. I’m including an excerpt of the release below as an FYI. I’ve never used it (clearly) so I can’t endorse it, but if it had been around a decade ago, I probably would’ve given it a try.

The Tortle is an FDA-cleared medical device that looks like any other soft-knit baby cap, with one important distinction – its rolled-edge which keeps baby’s head gently turned alternately to one side and then the other.

The Tortle is worn primarily during waking hours when the child is in his or her car seat, bouncy chair, or lying down and can be used to turn the head away from the side favoured during sleep. The rolled-edge can also be alternated from side to side to encourage uniformity for a baby who favours sleeping directly on the back of his or her head. 

American Dr. Jane Scott, a pediatrician, neonatologist and mother of four invented the Tortle. It can aid in the prevention and treatment of both plagiocephaly and torticollis.  It’s a natural way to encourage healthy head and neck motion, without any of the suffocation risks of repositioning pillows or wedges. It is available in small, medium and large, comes in Baby Blue and Baby Pink and retails for $21.95.  For a list of Canadian retailers visit OYACO.com.


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