Henry’s Helmet: Part 2

Henry got his helmet yesterday, and so far it hasn’t been too bad. He actually doesn’t seem to notice it at all. He was stuck in his carseat a lot yesterday and he has teeth coming in so he was a little fussy, but it could have been much, much worse.

We went in for his fitting last week, which was completely painless. The clinician put a little stocking over his face and they took a couple 3D photos of his head. That was it. Quick and easy. We actually decided to drive all the way from Milwaukee to the Chicago area for all of his appointments so we could do the 3D imaging instead of having an actual cast made of his head. I had a few parents whose children had to get a cast tell me that the fitting was the worst part, so we wanted to avoid that at all costs. I mean, look at this photo in this link. Doesn’t it look terrible compared to taking a quick photo??

Getting fitted for his Doc Band

We had to wait a week after his fitting for the helmet to be made for him, and then we drove back to Chicago to get it. Our clinician came in the room, showed us how to pop it on his head, went over care/maintenance procedures and let us hang out with Henry for a few minutes so she could see if she needed to make any adjustments to the helmet before we left.

We took a bajillion photos as soon as she left the room, which I have narrowed down for you below. After about 15 minutes she came back, checked for red spots on Henry’s head, made a few adjustments to the helmet and sent us on our way. Super easy!

For the first couple days we have to have Henry wear the helmet for 3-4 hours at a time, then take it off until any red marks on his head fade away. We mark down how long it took for the marks to fade, then put the helmet back on and repeat the process. After we touch base with the clinician and make sure everything is normal, Henry will wear the helmet for 23 hours a day until he grows out of it (probably 8-10 weeks). The only time it will come off is for bath time, diaper changes and cleaning it so it doesn’t smell like a foot.

We decided to stop for lunch on the way home, and that’s when we noticed the staring. Almost every single person that walked by looked at us like something was terribly wrong with us. One man actually waited until my husband walked away and then came over and asked me, “What’s wrong with your baby?” I was warned about this happening, but it was still shocking to have it happen before we even got home from the appointment! I’m sure this will not be the last time it happens either.

One thing that will hopefully deter people from looking at us like we are horrible parents is decorating the helmet! I found a couple designs I liked by searching around online, but eventually decided to ask my coworker to paint it for us. We are planning on getting it done this weekend, so I’ll post photos when it is complete!

As we’ve been going through this process it seems like other Doc Band parents have really come out of the woodwork – they are everywhere! One article I found was written by woman whose twins needed helmets, and I thought these sections summed it up pretty nicely (click for full article):

Why did I decide to [get helmets for the twins]? Yes, it was partially for cosmetic reasons — I didn’t want my one son to grow up with one eye being noticeably lower down and smaller than the other, and I wanted my other son to be able to get a short haircut one day, without feeling like a conehead. But there were physical considerations as well. One baby’s brachycephaly had created so much wideness in his head, that he wouldn’t be able to wear normal bike or baseball helmets. My other boy’s head was so asymmetrical that it was creating a cross-bite that would likely cause jaw problems later in life. Obviously, these are things they could live with, but I was being presented with a solution, something short-term, non-invasive, and painless that would improve their lives later. Why wouldn’t I seize the opportunity? The babies don’t even notice it, they certainly aren’t self-conscious about it — is it any different than getting your child braces? And, luckily for us, our insurance covered the majority of it, which was a huge help, especially with twins. Yes, the helmets are expensive!

They’re a pain in the ass too. The outside is a hard shell, so it’s really uncomfortable trying to snuggle their heads against your chest or try to kiss their heads. And I’ve gotten banged in the face quite a few times when they jolt their heads back too fast or face-dive into my face. The helmets also smell like sweaty shoes, so when we take them off for the hour before bed (when we give them their baths and dinner and bottle and all of that), their heads smell too. Early on, I asked how we could get rid of that smell, aside from the alcohol cleaning we were doing every day anyway. Apparently, nothing, so there’s always an unpleasant stench before bathtime. Poor, little stinkers.

It seems like most parents with babies though know what the helmets are all about — it’s becoming more and more common, especially since the Back to Sleep campaign to prevent SIDS — and it seems like most people know at least one baby who needed one. In the scheme of things, it’s really no big deal. My babies have had them on for 11 weeks, and are “graduating” in just a few days with beautiful, normal-shaped heads. It was absolutely worth it, at the very least for the peace of mind. I wouldn’t want to look back ten years from now, and wish that I had done it when I had the chance.

My advice: if you think your baby might have a pronounced flat spot, talk to your pediatrician about it before he or she is 6 months old and, if recommended, get your child evaluated. It really was worth it, and not nearly as difficult as I thought it might be. It also flew by, as it seems every month with these babies does! And I feel better knowing that, in the end, I did the very best for them.

Read Henry’s Helmet: Part 1…


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