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It's common to put stocking caps on newborns. For both of my boys, born in different hospitals with different methodologies, they were given stocking caps immediately after birth.

I know that the caps are for temperature control and keeping the baby warm. However, we've heard from our mothers (when our first was born) that the caps have another purpose.

The pressure exerted on a baby's scalp during delivery can cause temporary deformities of the skull, since the skull bones are not fused. This malleability is necessary for babies to fit through the birth canal. However, it often leaves newborn heads looking decidedly more lumpy than usual.

Back to the caps: Our mothers (and others) claim that the pressure from the hat can speed up the process by which the skull's shape normalize. I'm skeptical, because I'm not sure the pressure applied by a standard cap would be even or consistent enough to be effective.

So, can newborn stocking caps speed up the process by which newborn skulls assume their normal shape?

Note, I'm not referring to the cases where children receive specialized helmets for flat or bulging skulls.

Aside: If anyone wants to edit this to include the medical or technical words for the conditions and processes I'm referring to, please do!

  • I only have time to post questions or comments between new dad duties. So please forgive any typos (on mobile) and my lack of linking to sources about the stuff I'm talking about. Hopefully, my quality will improve once things settle down here. – user11394 May 12 '15 at 3:15
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    My wife is an L&D nurse, and she tells me that the hats they use are only there for warmth. Any cap that could help form the shape of the head would likely be too tight and hinder circulation anyway. She didn't know of any studies about this, however. I have seen caps for sale that claim to do this, but they have poor reviews. On that note, my nephew did have to wear a special helmet for a while to reshape his head because they weren't giving him enough tummy time. – Kurt E. Clothier May 12 '15 at 4:35
  • @CreationEdge: If that is a bad quality question to you, you should VTC most other questions here due to poor quality ;-) I never heard of caps being used for anything but warmth, perhaps this is an urban legend / cultural myth? As a side note: My son was born after 53 hours of labour and absulutely detested having anything around his head, whether caps or a firm hand. (Loose support without "grabbing" was tolerated, though.) His head was back to normal in two days all by itself. – Stephie May 12 '15 at 5:15
  • The closest technical term I can find is caput succedaneum but I think that is swelling of the scalp, not skull deformation. – Acire May 12 '15 at 11:52
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Based on commentary from friends of ours who are midwives and community nurses, there are two key information points here:

  • To answer your specific question: No, those caps are just to keep the baby's head warm. They do not offer significant pressure to reshape the skull
  • Trying to do this is unneeded, aside from exceptional cases that the hospital would identify and provide assistance for

Babies heads are supposed to deform, and the soft skull allows this to happen and reform. You shouldn't worry about it.

  • I would add that I'm not personally worried about the lumpiness. It's par for the course. I hope this helps others, though. I really wish I knew where the idea that it helps with shape came from. I only seem to have heard it by mouth. – user11394 May 12 '15 at 15:04

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