I noticed Wren maybe had a liiiiiittle tiny flat spot on her head when she was about one month old, maybe one-and-a-half. I didn't think too much of it since I'd had similar thoughts about all the other kids and nothing came of it. Still, I brought it up at her two month check-up. Our doc agreed there was a small something but just to watch it and keep her off of the area as much as possible. I was really good about it, putting her on her belly all the time if I'd set her down. But the problem is sleep- I could adjust her head all I wanted to keep it off the flat spot but she moves a little and rolls right back on it. At her four month check up, it was pretty obvious the spot was getting worse and we were referred to a craniofacial surgeon. So at 5.5 months she was examined, measured, and confirmed in need of correction.
Wren has plagiocephaly, which is a flattening off to the side of the head, which also makes the other side bulge out.
Wren also has brachycephaly, which is a flattening at the back of the head, kind of like squashing it forward.
I'll be honest, when I first considered the possibility of her needing a cranial helmet (or cranial cap, or orthotic), it was really upsetting. I didn't even like to think about it. But the months went by and her flatness became more pronounced- I became more reluctantly accepting of the idea. I had myself one good cry when we found out she'd need one for sure. Then I decided just move on positively. One positive, she didn't need any physical therapy. And when they measured her head for helmet specifications, she looked really cute in her little cap with reflective dots.
That day, I also started looking for ways to cuten up the helmet. The best idea, to me, was to paint it. There were some fantastic designs from a lady in North Carolina. But, yeah, that's far away, and I couldn't find anyone who professionally painted these helmets around here. So after a pep talk from some friends, I determined to do it myself. Just like painting a wall, right? (Ha!) I definitely wanted a floral pattern, as a counterpoint to the hard lines of the helmet. I determined to copy a pattern on one of her shirts that looked do-able.
I roughed up the helmet with some super-fine sand paper (800 grit) so the paint could grip the surface. Then, with acrylic paints, I applied a base coat that the boys all helped with, then lots of detailed painting after the kids' bedtimes. It sure hurt my back but man, I'm happy with how it looks. It took me a while to figure out how to seal the paint but mod podge works great (I contacted the North Carolina lady who shared her knowledge of helmet sealants).
Now, when I look at the helmet, I'm proud of myself for doing a good job (I'm honestly surprised that it looks as good as it does) and putting in the time for her. And when people see Wren in her helmet, rather than be jarringly surprised at this big plastic thing on her head, they're delighted by the little flowers dancing around her face. It changes the conversation.
She got her helmet on January 25th. There's an ease-in period where she wore the helmet increasing amounts each day and by day five, she was on the recommended 23-hours-a-day. During her hour break, we clean the helmet with ethanol and hot water and give her hair a good scrub- the helmet creates a nice "gym bag" odor. She's expected to wear the helmet for three to four months.
Why did Wren's head flatten? Well, there's no obvious answer. The specialist mentioned it could have started with the way her head was resting in the womb. But the problem was certainly exacerbated by her sleep. Way more babies have been diagnosed with plagiocephaly since the start of the Back To Sleep campaign. It's clearly safest to have babies sleep on their back. But a little flat spot turns into a bigger flat spot as it's repeatedly slept on. Apparently, "good sleepers" more often have this issue, and I'd definitely label Wren as one. So, it just happened. I don't know what I should have done differently. It is what it is.
Two positives about the situation. One, this is happening in the winter time, so way less sweat and the accompanying discomfort. Two, I think this experience will probably make Sean a better pediatrician. What a way to learn.
Wren is tolerating the helmet so well, she rarely complains about it. It doesn't seem to be effecting her sleep much, only that her increasing ability to roll over may make her head rest in a way she didn't intend. But that only effects her when she's falling asleep, really. I feel really lucky that she's doing so well with it. The boys all think it's kind of cool, excepting that it makes it hard to kiss her (I don't like that aspect either!). We'll be happy when the era of the helmet is through but it's going well so far!
Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Hi! I'm Wren!
On Sunday, I turned six months old. A whole half year!
Everyone loves me. Seriously, everyone. And I pretty much love everyone, too. I'm told that I'm a good sleeper and that I'm the cutest. I sure like to smile and laugh whenever I get a chance! I just started wearing a helmet last week but Mommy's going to talk about that on the next blog post.
Happy half birthday to me!
Posted by Katie Bradley at 10:57 PM