Have you noticed your baby’s head tilting to one side or them preferring to look in one direction? Infant torticollis is what causes this and is the result of a tightened muscle on one side of the neck. It is common, affecting 3 in every 100 babies and, in most cases, easily treated. Your baby could have been born with the condition (congenital torticollis), which is usually due to their position in utero or injury during birth. Babies can also develop it after birth (acquired torticollis) and is usually the result of trauma or infection. Although your baby may be born with torticollis, you may not notice for 6-8 weeks when they start to gain more control of their head and neck.
The best way to manage torticollis is to encourage your baby to turn their head in both directions and to see a physical therapist. They can provide range of movement and strength exercises and track their head shape development and progress.
If the torticollis is paired with flattening on one side of your baby’s head, it is beneficial to have them assessed by your physician and a physical therapist to determine if there is a need for a helmet consult to help shape your baby’s head while they are growing. Helmets can be most effective when started around 3 months old.
Symptoms to look for may include:
- Head tilt of rotation to one side
- Reduced range of motion to move baby’s head
- Flattening on one side of baby’s head
- Baby may prefer feeding from one side only
- A noticeable tight muscle on one side of baby’s neck