A newborn with a cone-shaped or pointy head after vaginal birth is called a conehead baby.
In many babies, conehead may become normal in 48 hours following birth. In some, it may resolve within a few days or weeks without any interventions. You may seek medical advice if your baby has severe abnormalities of head shape.
Read this post to know more about the causes, concerns, and when to worry about the conehead in babies.
Why Does A Baby Have A Conehead After A Vaginal Birth?
A cone-shaped head in babies might result from squeezing through the birth canal during vaginal birth (1). A baby’s head circumference is larger than the birth canal. However, a baby’s skull is not fully developed. Therefore, their skull undergoes molding, a process that compresses and overlaps the skull bones to allow the head to fit through the birth canal.
There are large soft spots between the skull bones that facilitate molding during vaginal delivery. The cone shape may vary in each baby depending on the head circumference and diameter of the birth canal. The baby may have a more pronounced coned head if the mother has a narrow birth canal or prolonged labor.
Does Conehead Indicate Something Wrong?
Conehead in newborns after vaginal birth is normal. Parents may worry after noticing the conehead in their baby since many babies around them may have perfectly round heads. Conehead indicates that your baby is born vaginally, and the shape may not cause pain or developmental delays.
Babies born through C-section generally have a round head since they do not pass through the birth canal. One in three babies in the US is delivered through a cesarean section (2). Thus, an increased number of C-sections could be the reason why many babies have a round head from birth. Babies who are born breech, that is, delivered feet- or buttock-first may also not have a conehead (3).
Will A Conehead Baby Also Have A Flat Head Syndrome?
Any baby can develop the flat head syndrome, including conehead babies. Having a conehead is not a risk factor for flat head syndrome. Any baby who tends to sleep with their head turned to the same side can develop this condition, regardless of their head shape.
The flat head syndrome is also known as positional plagiocephaly. It usually occurs when a baby sleeps in the same position, as it causes repeated pressure on a spot on the skull. Flat areas are generally seen in the head’s back or side, depending on the baby’s resting position (4).
Is There Anything To Do About A Baby’s Conehead?
The cone shape of a baby’s head usually resolves within a few weeks. You may enjoy being a new parent without any worries.
If your baby has flat head syndrome or conehead due to the sleeping position, you may try the following tips.
- Place your baby on their back to sleep.
- You may hold your baby between naps. This may reduce continuous pressure on your baby’s head.
- Give more tummy time to your baby to develop head and neck muscle control. This may help your baby manage the head position according to the pressure.
There is no need for any treatment or massage to change the baby’s head shape since the head gradually comes back into its normal shape.
When To See The Doctor?
If your baby has a conehead for a few months or you are concerned about your baby’s head shape, you may talk to a pediatrician for more information.
The pediatrician may suggest using special helmets to turn your baby’s head into a round shape. The helmets are usually recommended for severe cases. Diagnostic tests are often done to rule out the following conditions (5).
- Limited neck mobility or congenital torticollis: This may cause the asymmetrical shape of the head since the head tilts to one side.
- Craniosynostosis: It is a condition in which the different sections of a baby’s skull fuse prematurely. The condition might require surgery.
Babies with misshapen head shape due to pathological conditions may require medical care. Physical therapy and stretching exercise may help normalize head movement in babies with limited neck mobility.
Myths Regarding Conehead Babies
The following misconceptions and practices about conehead in babies are observed among some cultures (6).
- Some people believe that conehead babies are more intelligent than others. However, this is not true. Babies have soft skulls without permanent sutures, and the head is molded during vaginal birth. Conehead has no relation to the intelligence of a baby.
- Wrapping cloths or ropes to normalize the head shape is practiced in some cultures. As babies retain their normal head shape within a few days or weeks, these interventions are not required.
- Newborns of tribal leaders and royals have manually molded head shapes to mark distinction in some cultures. Manual molding of the baby’s head is not recommended, and you must let the skull develop its shape naturally.
Cone shape is not the permanent shape of your baby’s head, and it becomes normal within days without any interventions. It is completely normal for a baby to have this shape after vaginal birth. Do not compare the shape of your baby’s skull to that of other babies and worry. Enjoy the moments of parenthood, and provide the best care to your baby. If you have any concerns about the head shape and development of your baby, do not hesitate to discuss it with a pediatrician.
2. You Asked: How Many C-sections Can A Woman Have?; Texas A&M Health
3. Newborn head molding;MedlinePlus; The United States National Library of Medicine
4. What is flat head syndrome (plagiocephaly or brachycephaly)?; National Childbirth Trust
5. Baby’s Head Shape: Should You Be Concerned?; Nationwide Children’s Hospital
6. Daniel R. Bronfin; Misshapen Heads in Babies: Position or Pathology?; The United States National Library of Medicine