Plagiocephaly

Jack's Journey

Jack’s STARband success story
by mom Jenna Wustman

Orthomerica STARband Plagiocephaly helmet 2019.jpg

By the time Jack was two months old, we noticed his head shape was getting more and more flat. He also had reflux pretty bad so tummy time was always pretty miserable for him (and us) as he would just lay there vomiting and screaming.
The pediatrician noticed the flatness at two months and said if it didn’t improve by his four-month appointment, he would give us a referral to get scanned to see if he needed a cranial remolding orthosis.
We tried a head-shaping pillow, constantly readjusting his head and switching sides, but despite our best efforts, it continued to get worse. We also tried craniosacral therapy about every other week for those two months as I tried my best to avoid him having to get a STARband; it didn’t seem
to help much.

We went to Mary Free Bed Orthotics & Prosthetics in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on December 24 for Jack’s first scan and diagnosis. At that time, he was about five months old, and his head was on the moderate scale as far as severity goes, and would only need to wear it for about three-four months. So, we chose to move forward, and orthotist and cranial remolding specialist Brent Tuinstra set up his appointment to receive his STARband on January 18.

Orthomerica STARband Plagiocephaly helmet 2019.jpg

I cried, worried about what others would think and how to explain it to people, especially family. But I knew this is what would be best for Jack. I think having a cranial remolding orthosis is a more common occurrence in this generation, but older generations find it so foreign it needs more explanation. Thankfully our family was very sympathetic and understanding about the situation and ended up being very supportive in helping care for Jack throughout
this journey!

Jack received his STARband on January 18 and followed the wearing schedule, slowly working him into the adjustment. We opted for a white helmet with a black band knowing we would want to decorate it eventually! Jack did surprisingly well in getting acquainted with his helmet; many even commented on how cute he looked in it! We were very strict about sticking to his schedule and him only having it off for one hour a day, despite having to explain to the family that even though he isn’t laying down all day – his head is still growing; therefore he needs to keep it on.

Overall, our experience with the STARband was much better than anticipated! Anytime someone asked about Jack’s STARband, we were happy to tell them how much his head is improving and how well he does with it on! He honestly never had any issues with it, we had no problem cleaning it, and he never had any reactions at all! Both our orthotists were great⁠—Jack went in for regular check-ups and adjustments every three-four weeks, we were eventually switched to Doug Richardson (another orthotist and cranial remolding specialist) to finish out his time in the helmet, and he finally got it off about four months later on May 10! Although I was initially upset and nervous about him needing a STARband, I am so glad we went through with it and are thrilled with how great Jack’s head looks now!

Jack graduated from his STARband!

Jack graduated from his STARband!

Tummy Time

One of the best ways to help prevent your child from developing an abnormal head shape is by introducing Tummy Time activities into their daily routine. This can start from the very first day you bring your child home from the hospital!  Tummy Time is an important aspect of an infant’s development process, and the first 3 to 4 months can be especially helpful in developing the strength and coordination that is necessary for future rolling and crawling abilities.  Here are five activities that you can try with your child to make Tummy Time a regular part of your daily care and bonding experiences!

Number One: Positioning your baby on your chest. By reclining or lying down with your baby and positioning him on your chest, your child can begin to develop the strength and movements that lead to head control, pushing up from the floor, trunk control, sitting and eventually crawling and rolling. Lift your child’s head up once in a while as it encourages your child to look at you while playing.  Turn the head to the right and left occasionally as this will also help to improve the range of motion of the neck and reduce the baby’s preferred head positioning.

Number Two: Playing. Speaking of playing, spending some time on your tummy with your child can be fun and extremely beneficial! Place some toys near your child so they can practice reaching, propping, and improving their hand-eye coordination.  This type of tummy time activity should always be supervised, so you might as well join in the fun!

Number Three: Carry your baby facing away from you. This vertical aspect of Tummy Time can also help improve the strength of your baby’s neck and trunk muscles. Be sure to support your child by their head and chest so that they are encouraged to look around and visually explore their surroundings. Make your child feel like superman while you are still holding them close to you!

Number Four: Diaper changing. Instead of changing your child’s diaper in a static position on their back, consider rolling them side to side as you fasten each diaper tab. This is a great way to help transition your baby from being on his back all the time and to spending some time on his side and tummy while mom and dad are close by.  Another idea is to alternate placing your child’s head to the right and left sides of the changing table.  This will encourage your child to turn their head in different directions to look at you.  Again, adding a few minutes of playtime with a toy, funny faces or funny noises is a great way to balance the stretching and strengthening of the neck muscles.


And Number Five: Music! Tummy time is a great time to bond with your child. Consider playing some quiet, soothing music during playtime with your child on his stomach. Or, maybe your child likes to mix it up with something a little more upbeat!  It all works and is a fun way to help your child learn to move around.  A small roll or towel under the chest can be used to better support your child and also encourage them to look up and all around their play space.  Don’t forget to both have fun!

Tummy time is an incredibly beneficial aspect of your child’s life, and can help to prevent plagiocephaly from developing.  However, if you notice a flattened area on your child’s head developing or not getting better, consider talking with your doctor or an orthotist about an evaluation for a STARband.