Finding a Compromise
Solving One Problem Leads to Another
Parents would never dream a medically recommended way to keep babies safe in their cribs, could contribute to another medical and developmental problem. But that seems to be the case when it comes to the increase in the numbers of babies with misshapen heads.
Three and a half month old Connor Bronson was being fitted for what appears to be a tiny football helmet. In fact, it's a medical device to reshape his skull, something that is best accomplished during the first few months of life.
"It's very misshapen and we want to give him the best chance at life," his mother, Lisa Bronson, said.
Twins Rebecca and Abigail Skye have undergone similar treatment for the same condition. It's called deformational plagiocephaly, but is commonly referred to as flat head.
"Rebecca really had a more severe case. Her forehead was really protruding quite noticeably," Rebecca's mom, Jeanne Skye, said.
Sometimes the condition develops in utero and is made worse after birth when the skull is still forming. Putting babies to sleep on their back has saved thousands lives. SIDS has dropped 40 percent since 1992. But, doctors are beginning to notice that babies may be spending too much time on their backs and not only in their cribs.
Dr. David Staffenberg is the Chief of Pediatric Plastic Surgery at the children's hospital at Montefiore Medical Center.
"The babies get out of bed in the morning and they're put in their carseat and they're put on the kitchen table and they're brought to the car and they're put in the stroller so they're always in the same position just like astronauts in a space capsule," Staffenberg explained.
The cosmetic problems can be obvious, but the long-term health effects can be serious.
"Asymmetry of the head can lead to eye problems, it can lead to scoliosis of the cervical spine, it can lead to scoliosis further down the thoracic and lumbar spine, and eventually hip displasia. These are serious medical conditions that will affect that baby's life forever," Purvi Patel of Cranial Technologies said.
Some babies respond well to exercises and repositioning. Others require a cranial device. Early diagnosis, between 3 and 18 months, by a doctor is key to effective treatment. Parents and caregivers can mitigate the risk of flat head by giving infants more time on their tummies, something the Skyes and the Bronsons have already learned.
Doctors also say they're seeing developmental delays in neck strength, because babies are spending too much time on their backs. Doctors advise more tummy time, when baby is supervised. They say put baby on his back at night, and turn the head to the right one night and to the left the next.
Ignoring What We Know
Most people know staying awake all night can leave them groggy the next day. But, many college students do it anyway. Researchers at St. Lawrence University found those who pulled all-nighters generally had lower grade point averages than those who made more time for sleep.
Researchers interviewed more than 100 college students for the study. Two-thirds said they stayed up all night at least once a semester.
More Rest and Less Work
A new study from Northwestern University actually finds limiting work hours for surgical residents, could enhance their training. Researchers say rules that limit resident work hours to no more than 80 a week, and restrict shifts to 30 hours, translate into improved job satisfaction. In the study, the shorter hours did not negatively affect patient care.