A ray of parenting sunshine on Instagram made me smile this week.
When I was having babies, it was a very new thing for people to talk about what might be considered “imperfections” or the not-so-pretty side of having babies, from pregnancy to childbirth and beyond. Those who came before us left the impression that we were only supposed to share the things that made us seem like we were the perfect parents raising the perfect kids. That anything outside of that tidy little box was to be kept a secret—especially if it might seem scary.
Then came a trickling of mums who were willing to be honest, real.
Over time, that trickle grew into a wave. And celebrity mum Chrissy Teigen has been a wonderful addition to those voices.
She has shared many relatable things on her social media outlets (like the things our toddlers ask us to do), and this week’s quiet revelation was yet another that I feel particular grateful for.
The photo shows her six-month-old son Miles wearing a cranial remolding baby helmet, and has her asking those who see him in it not feel bad for him about it. Some people may reflexively worry about a baby in such gear (It’s a baby head! They are so soft and fragile and filled with brains!), but she’s assuring the public that this is completely normal.
Because it is completely normal for a baby to have a flat spot on their head (ie, plagiocephaly) and need to use helmet therapy to correct it.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics, approximately “one in four U.S. infants has some degree of positional plagiocephaly. The incidence has increased since the Academy initiated the Back to Sleep campaign in 1994 to prevent sudden infant death syndrome.”
Thankfully, the flat spots on all these kiddos’ heads have been easily corrected through the use of baby helmets and active repositioning.
But not a lot of parents knew this was normal, and very few were sharing pictures of their kids in their baby helmets, or talking about what was happening.
I understand the natural hesitation to do so.
My first child was born in 2005 with one heck of a cone head. It smoothed out, but within a few months his pediatrician talked to us about the flat spot that remained on one side. I was shown how to do exercises and stretches for him, plus told to reposition him off that spot during naps and bedtime. If his flat spot wasn’t corrected by a certain date, we were to begin him on helmet therapy.
I admit there were some nerves on our end as new parents. Being an adept compartmentalizer, I pushed away worries while focusing on the treatment I could actively participate in. I didn’t know anyone whose baby wore a helmet. I didn’t have a proper mum tribe yet with anyone I could ask what it was like. I felt alone in this situation. It felt like it was just our baby going through it, even though a quarter of all babies born in the US were experiencing something similar. I feared pity. I feared people feeling bad for him.
At his next appointment, we were relieved to hear that the treatment was working—no helmet therapy was required. I kept up the maintenance plan his doctor put it place until he eventually didn’t need it anymore.
If only I had known then what I know now: I was surrounded by mums dealing with the exact same thing in silence. Every day I passed parents who could relate to my worries, knew what it was like to do physical therapy on your own baby. These were missed opportunities, all because no one had yet normalize being open about such things.
This is why I am so grateful for Chrissy Teigan’s post.
As of this writing, there are over twenty thousand comments on it, a large portion of which are people thanking her and saying their babies are or have gone through this, too. She used her spotlight to officially normalize something so many parents have experienced but weren’t ready to talk about yet.
Her words brought comfort to countless parents out there, including her fans—old ones who have been following her all along, and new ones who had no idea how much they needed this kind of honesty about parenting in their life.