Real Questions and Answers About Medical Helmets

I didn’t know a ton about medical helmets until my daughter ended up needing a Doc Band. She had to wear hers for almost four months, and during that time I had to become somewhat of an expert and advocate. Because of my strong willed 3 year old, whenever we are out of the house I wear my baby pretty much exclusively, so her face is right in front of mine. These past months I got a small dose of what someone with a visible minority goes through, and it is tough. Before this experience, I had no idea people had no control over their faces! The amount of head whipping and double takes I get simply trying to buy my groceries is astounding. I see looks that range from excitement, confusion, and sometimes downright disgust. These looks are usually followed by THE QUESTIONS. So. Many. Questions. I get it, most people aren’t familiar with medical helmets. Though the introvert in me would rather become invisible and buy my toilet paper in peace, I would rather people ask me questions than assume something ridiculous. So now that we have come to the end of our medical helmet journey, I wanted to share with the world the questions I get asked and the answers to these questions. I am also including the ridiculous comments and unsolicited advice I am given, with my sarcastic responses. Hopefully this can help educate those who are curious, so next time you see a kid with a medical helmet you can leave the lady with the two screaming kids in the checkout line well enough alone.

What is that helmet for?/ What is wrong with your kid?/Why is she wearing that?

Medical helmets like the Doc Band are used to help correct plagiocephaly or brachycephaly in infants. This means that the baby has a severe flat spot on their head that cannot be corrected by physical therapy alone. The helmet holds the larger spots of their skull in place while it gives the flatter area room to fill out. My daughter has severe brachycephaly, which means she has a flat spot on the back of her head. Technically, even though she is considered “severe” her head isn’t even that flat. Her main problem is she has an indent in the back of her skull because her occipital bone is pushing in at a weird angle. If it is any of your business.

Is she normal/does she have special needs/does she have Down Syndrome?

Get the f*ck out of here you can’t just ask people that SHARON.

Did you paint that yourself?

Yes I did! Well, I painted it pink and then used flower stickers to decorate it. It was a pain in the ass and almost sent me into a mental breakdown.

Oh my gosh she is the cutest thing I have ever seen!!!!!!!! Can I touch her/play with her/pinch her cheeks/rub her head/touch the helmet???

Thank you. And no.

Does it hurt her/bother her?

Not at all! She doesn’t seem to know it exists, or at least no more than a hat would exist. The medical helmet does not push on the skull to reshape it, it simply holds the skull in place. They told me it was similar to the pressure of lying on your pillow at night.

How long does she have to wear that thing?

23 hours a day, taken off once a day for about an hour to clean both her head and the helmet. How long they have to wear it depends on the child, generally 2-4 months. She will need hers almost four months.

Can she see with it on?

Can you see with your baseball cap on?

Does she headbutt you/use it as a weapon?

Yes. And it hurts. I am covered in bruises. 

Does she wear that because she falls down a lot?

Yes. I drop my immobile baby so often I decided to put a helmet on her.

Does HE (in pink floral) play football? (I kid you not this was asked genuinely by an elderly man)

Yes, we have started a baby league for 6 months and under. They can’t walk, hell they can’t even roll, but we sure do love giving them concussions.

My (grandchild/cousin/neighbor)/Chrissy Teigen’s son had a helmet.

Cool.

My child had a flat spot but it went away.

Good for your child. Many babies do have slight flat spots and they can correct themselves over time with simple repositioning or physical therapy.

I heard babies only get flat spots if their parents don’t pick them up enough/keep them in their swing all day.

Yes, didn’t you know? The helmet is a sure fire way to identify every neglectful parent out there. We don’t pick our babies up but we are willing to drive them to weekly doctors appointments for months. I mean…

That is incorrect. Yes, babies can get flat spots from laying on their back a lot. My first had a slight flat spot that went away over time. Why did she have a flat spot? Because she was a unicorn magical sleeping child. Slept through the night at just a few weeks old. In fact, the first thing I was asked by her pediatrician was, “She is a good sleeper, isn’t she?” My second child is a good sleeper too, but that isn’t how she got her flat spot. Hers isn’t positional, which means she would have it no matter how she slept. In fact, she is held, like, all the time. No really. For months and months she was only happy if she was in my specific arms. And yet, she still got a flat head! Why? Her doctors told me it is because some babies just have softer bones. Luck of the genetics draw.

I think those helmets are stupid/pointless/a waste of money/big pharma.

Thank you for your unsolicited feedback random man in the produce aisle who won’t leave me alone.

I have heard those helmets don’t work.

Eh, I’ll agree it is a debated topic. There was one small study that “proved” there was no change of head shape in the long run. However if you dig deeper into the study it was a biased study where they actually improperly fit the helmets and wore them loose like a bike helmet, so of course they didn’t work. There have been a lot of studies since then that have proved the benefits of medical helmets. Unfortunately, a lot of pediatricians just hear the headline of the first study and then spread inaccurate information. 

We didn’t have helmets back in my day and we all turned out fine.

Yes and no. It is more complicated than that. First, the Back to Sleep campaign, which says all children should sleep on their back for a lower risk of SIDS, was launched in 1994. So “back in our day” our parents were told to put us on our bellies to sleep. If we didn’t sleep on our backs, then obviously our heads wouldn’t get flat. So yes, there has been a huge rise in children needing medical helmets since this campaign, but I’ll take a flat headed baby over a dead one any day. Second, even though we slept on our stomachs, not all of us “turned out fine.” A few adults have come up to me and told me that their heads are a funny shape and they wish they would have gotten it fixed when they were a baby. Many of them have true self esteem issues because of it. One man told me he keeps his hair long because he was bullied in school because of his head shape. That isn’t “just fine” in my book. We also didn’t have seat belts and vaccines and cellphones back in the day either SHARON but look where we are now. 

It is purely cosmetic.

Technically, yes. Technically, unless a child has craniosynostosis, children who could benefit from a medical helmet can not get one and grow up to be “just fine.” I don’t know, maybe I am vain. Would you want to live with a severe underbite if you could prevent it? Not me. Would you want to live with one ear literally two inches higher than the other if you could prevent it? Not me. Would you want to live with a vastly uneven skull shape if you could prevent it? Not me. 

She is a girl so her hair will hide it. (Spoken by our female pediatric neurosurgeon none the less)

Really? REALLY!? This is 2019. We are going to be that incredibly sexist? I am going to bank on the fact my daughter will always want long hair? What if she identifies as trans/non-binary and wants short hair? What if she identifies as female but still wants short hair? What if she loses all her hair to chemo/skull surgery/alopecia/horrific accident? What am I supposed to tell her then? “Welp this is your fault, you were supposed to keep your hair long?” I just can’t.

I am sure I could think up a few more but you get the point. Now I know what you are thinking. “Vanessa, you are lying. There is no way you have been asked so many ignorant ridiculous things by complete strangers in four short months.” I wish I was lying. I wish we didn’t get shared at everywhere we went. I wish I didn’t have the fire burning inside of me to write this. But I do. Because they did. So please, for the love of god, before you ask some poor random stranger a question, stop and ask yourself why you feel the urge to talk to them and if what you want to say could be offensive. Don’t be like Sharon.

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