Head Favoring in Infants...When is it a concern?

Does your little one favor breastfeeding on one side? Do they prefer to sleep with their head turned to one side? Do they struggle and fuss when you try to move their head? Well these are some of the signs that your little one may have a condition that we called torticollis. That's just a fancy term for when the Sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM) gets really tight and is in prolonged muscle contraction. 

What causes torticollis?
Babies can be born with it or it can take up to three months for it to show. Unfortunately doctors aren't sure why some babies get torticollis and others don't. Some say that it could be due to the position of the fetus in utero. That can be from a breech or transverse position. During birth, the use of forceps or vacuum devices also makes a baby more likely to develop it. 

What is the Sternocleidomastoid muscle?
This large muscle is located in the neck on both sides. It starts from behind the ear and travels to the collarbone. The action of the muscle is to rotate the head to the opposite direction while laterally bending to the same direction (i.e. right SCM muscle bends the neck to the right and torates it to the left). 

What are some signs and symptoms?

  • They prefer to breastfeed on one side vs the other
  • They prefer looking over one shoulder when help up right vs the other
  • They get fussy when you try to move their head
  • They don't turn their head from side to side on their own (this can be difficult to notice when they are younger)
  • During tummy-time they lay their head to the favored side
  • You may notice flattening on the side and/or back of head on the side they prefer to turn their head to 

How we can help:
We would first do an exam to make sure that your child does have the condition. From there we will start doing some streches and exercises around the neck and shoulder to open up space. After that we will teach the parents how to gently massage your infants neck muscles at home. Following the massage, we will do a gentle neck adjustment to make sure that the joints are moving well without any restrictions. And finally, we will send you home with some homework after you treatment! 

What to do at home in the meantime?
Tummy time, timmy time, tummy time!! It is extremely important to build strength within your child neck so that they can better control their head. This helps with the torticollis and flattening of the head. You can start with 2-3 minutes at a time every couple of hours. Gradually work your way to 10 minutes and eventually you'll be at a point where you wont be noticing the time because baby will enjoy being on their tummy!