Ah yes, the helmet saga. I really haven’t talked too much about it on social media, so for those who are interested/for those who have infants or will in the future, here’s the full story:
While I was pregnant, I remember reading that babies must sleep on their backs these days to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). SIDS is one of those things that terrifies you to your core as a new parent and makes you really learn to trust God. It’s really not that common (in 2015 there were only 1,600 infant deaths related to SIDS), but it’s just one of those things that scare you enough to follow the recommendations.
Also, about those recommendations. Some are a bit of a pain. For instance, one of the recommendations is for your baby to sleep in your room their entire first year. Yeah, that lasted about four months, and then we put Jack in his own room. We didn’t register for a $250 video monitor for nothing.
But one of the most stressed guidelines is for your baby to sleep on their back. It’s supposed to help the airway stay open. The problem with this is that your baby’s head is growing quickly and is also very soft and malleable. Also, your baby can’t support his/her head, which means they are either in your arms or laying on something.
Well, as a terrified new mother, I didn’t want to put Jack on his stomach at all the first 2 or 3 months of his life. I knew there was a chance he’d get a flat head, but I guess I was more concerned about him having SIDS and dying. Shocking, I know. The last two sentences were a little sarcastic in case that didn’t come across 😉
Another factor for my poor son—he has an unusually large head. Like, 90th percentile large. So he hated tummy time and struggled to hold his head up.
I really shouldn’t have been surprised at his 2 month check in when the pediatrician told me I should try to get him on his tummy as much as possible; he was “looking a little flat.”
I did try. I really did. But when you’ve also not slept very much, you kinda will do anything to get your baby to be happy and take a nap so that you can sleep too. And if I were asleep, I certainly couldn’t put Jack on his stomach.
By Jack’s 4 month appointment, I’d really been noticing his flat head. So I asked the doctor if he needed a helmet.
“I’d say he’s moderate. It could self-correct, but I also would hate for you to look at him when he’s 12 years old and think, ‘Gosh, I wish I’d gotten him the helmet.’ If you go see someone, they will tell you that you should get it.”
K’boom. Bomb. Dropped.
I immediately felt like a failure. How could I have let this happen? I should have just held him at all times unless he was sleeping. Even when he was sleeping. I can’t believe he’s going to have a helmet. What will people think of me?
Sometimes I’m such a narcissist. What will people think of me? How about what’s best for Jack? Ugh, whatever, moving on…
So it wasn’t even a week later that me, Jack, and my father-in-law (FIL) were at Cranial Tech getting a consultation. I asked Mark to join because he has a good eye for whether or not people are selling you something because they want your money or because you genuinely need it. With Jack having a “moderate” flat head, I wasn’t sure if I was fully sold on him needing a helmet. That was probably just my wishful thinking.
The occupational therapist (OT) had pictures taken of Jack’s head with a 3D camera. We were shown a side-by-side comparison of his head next to a “normal” infant’s head. Yep. His was way flat.
By the end of our time there, I knew Jack needed a helmet. Less than a month later, he was being fitted for his.
Since Jack was 5 months when he started treatment, he was given a timetable of about 10 weeks of wearing the helmet 23 hours a day. The one hour off was for a bath and to clean the helmet, which, trust me, was a very good call. That thing begins to reek.
Until he turned 6 months, Jack needed to go weekly for adjustments, which meant a lot of driving on I-77N for me. The great thing, though, is that the whole staff at Cranial Tech is literally the nicest group of people I know. One time, I literally slept through Jack’s appointment. Like, we woke up early that morning, then we both fell back asleep, and boom, I had missed an appointment. But they were like, “You feel better?! I’m so glad you got that extra rest!” Major thumbs up for Cranial Tech.
We decided that since Jack would be wearing the helmet all summer that it would be fun to have it painted. There is an amazing woman who paints helmets in the Lake Norman area. Wes and I could not agree on what design we wanted—I really didn’t want it to be sports-themed, but would be okay with a “house divided” Panthers/Patriots helmet. Wes, true sports lover that he is, wanted the helmet to painted like an actual NFL helmet, down to every last detail. I wasn’t thrilled with that.
Wes decided to scroll through the work she had done on her Facebook page and came across a Raphael ninja turtle helmet and knew immediately he wanted that for Jack, but the purple turtle, Donatello.
I have never watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in my life, but I wanted Wes to be happy, and I also didn’t want a sports helmet, so I agreed wholeheartedly.
So there you have it—that’s how Jack got the helmet design that he did.
After two days of helmet-wear, I could already see a difference. A week in, at our first “adjustment,” the clinician was incredibly pleased with the progress. We continued to return for weekly visits, and even ended up going to the Dallas office while we were visiting my family in TX (that’s one of the many great things about Cranial Tech—you can go to any office nationwide and they pull up the report on your kid!).
Six weeks in, Jack looked like a different baby. At his adjustment, it was decided that at most he would wear his helmet for one more week. And at seven weeks, Jack “graduated” from his helmet for good!
So what are the takeaways from this whole experience?
- Never think you are a failure for doing what you need to for you and your child. I realized I needed to stop beating myself up about Jack getting a flat head. I did what I needed to for his safety and my sanity, and it was fixable.
- Those weeks fly. Your child will be out of their helmet before you know it.
- You’ll wish they were still in it. I found myself worrying that he’d get a flat head again since he’s still not sitting or crawling, but the clinician said here would be less than 1% regression.
- Babies don’t even know they’re wearing it. Jack had no clue if that thing was on or off his head. He was more concerned with his toys, passy, bottle, and toes.
- I was really scared of Jack needing a helmet, but honestly, it was so painless and kinda fun! Everyone loved his Donatello helmet, and as he started rolling around, I was way more comfortable knowing that his head was protected. If you think your baby may need a helmet, I’d really recommend it!