Why do Taiwanese have flat heads?

OK, I admit that this subject may not be of the greatest importance – that’s why I started it off in the Flounder forum. But it is something I have contemplated ever since I stood in the back of a Taipei elevator a few years ago and noticed the back of the man’s head in front of me was flat as a board. Glancing about, I noticed that other’s heads too were flat in back and I wondered what the heck is that all about. Is it from lying on their backs only and not being rotated as babies? Do Taiwanese tie a board to the back of a baby’s head to form a desirable head shape, as used to be done with foot binding? Or is that just the way that Taiwanese are naturally formed?

Please understand that I’ve got nothing against flat heads, per se, and I don’t mean to infer that such heads are inferior. It’s just that I’ve studied the phenomenon over the years and wondered about the cause. If it’s just a matter of god having given flat heads to Taiwanese people, what would be the purpose of that? Isn’t a more symetrical egg-shaped head more sensible from a perspective of physics – more structurally sound, less surface area per volume, more streamlined, etc. What benefit could be gained by making it flat in the back other than the fact that the head will flop around less when one is lying on one’s back, but that problem was resolved eons ago through the invention of the pillow.

Does anyone have any have any answers concerning this most vexing of issues?


Actually, I saw a news report that said that Western kids heads are becoming flatter. Pretty soon we’ll all be flat headed.

It’s the way babies sleep. If they lie on their backs most of the time while sleeping they’ll get a ‘nice’ flat head. Some baby pillows are designed with a hole in the middle to prevent this.

Two of my brothers are Taiwanese by birth and they don’t have flat heads. My mother has said in the past that she feels it because she put them to bed on their sides or stomachs as babies while Taiwanese babies are put to bed lying on their backs.

I too, have read that more North American children are developing flat heads - but that this is as a result of parents now starting to put them to bed on their backs as some research is showing that children who sleep on their stomachs are more prone to SIDS.

Hospitals are also tending to put infants in the nurseries on their backs as well.
I’m not so sure that this research is correct though. It seems that there is always a new theory about just about everything health related!

[quote=“totallytika”]I too, have read that more North American children are developing flat heads - but that this is as a result of parents now starting to put them to bed on their backs as some research is showing that children who sleep on their stomachs are more prone to SIDS.

This is absolutely true - it’s something of an ‘epidemic’ due to the recommended back sleeping position, and a lot of parents are concerned about it - look up ‘positional plagiocephaly’ for more information. I couldn’t say whether it’s relevant to the Taiwanese without a better understanding of their rearing practices though :slight_smile:

funnily enough a woman at work was commenting on this a few days ago and she said that it was becasue the parents leave the kids in bed for too long, to the point of neglect and she insisted that these flat heads have problems at school, and are always, seeking attention from others…this was all said in chinese and i understood about 40% of the words spoken so some of this could by my own imagination speaking.
nevertheless interesting

Is it proven that it’s detrimental to the development of the brain?

The short answer for the general case is no - the brain is squishy :slight_smile: It’s more an aesthetic thing. However, if it is a byproduct of neglect, as Southpaw is suggesting, that can be detrimental.

Baby clinics in the west push the concept of ‘tummy time’ - forcing your child to lie on his stomach for short periods during the day, which will encourage him/her to lift his/her head, and develop the muscles needed to roll over etc. Once the child is rolling, the problem usually sorts itself out since many (not all) babies prefer to sleep on their stomachs anyway. However a child not given the opportunity to develop these muscles may be delayed in this area, and hence reinforce the cycle of being confined to lying on the back. When I was in HK, the advice of placing the child on the stomach regularly was never given to me by clinic nurses - I read it in (American) baby books, and then went back to Australia where it was widely known.

Of course it’s not detrimental to the brain.

My son does not have a flat head because we made sure he slept mostly on his side. You have to change sides from time to time or you may end up with a lopsided head instead!

AFAIK, when I was little, doctors in Germany advised Mums to put babies on their tummies because thus, they can’t choke if they vomit in their sleep (which can happen more easily if they lie on their backs). But the connection between lying on the tummy and SID has also been drawn in Germany (is still being researched, I think), so the position nowadays is to put babies on the side.


Maybe the best way to avoid a flat head or SIDS is to just put the baby to sleep in a hammock. I’m sure that would be great for its bone development. :wink:

See, the amusing thing here is that you think you’re joking :slight_smile:

Baby Hammocks

See, the amusing thing here is that you think you’re joking :slight_smile:

Baby Hammocks[/quote]

I have a baby hammock and my baby loves it. :smiley:

It’s a local Taiwanese device with two bamboo A-frames with a bamboo crossbar from which the baby hangs in a canvas sling. There’s a canvas flap one can drape over the baby so she’s in a little cocoon, and there’s a string one uses to rock her back and forth in it. Even if she’s hungry, fidgety or crying, the thing puts her to sleep in less than 5 minutes. It’s great. I like it too because it’s not some cheap made in china plastic crap – it’s a simple, local device made of all natural materials and it probably cost less than NT$1,000 (mine was free from the grandparents in Chiayi).

Well, if they all used to use that sort of device, then only the younger Taiwanese will have flat heads.

Now, this explains why the waishengren are crying foul. Because they spent their childhood sleeping on their backs. :laughing:

MT, you should take a picture of this hammock for us.

There’s a pillow sold that helps to keep baby on his/her side now.

My babies have nice round heads that are always being admired by people here but my father in law thinks it looks funny.

This is typical forumosa, someone starts a silly pointless topic about flat heads, and someone else comes and raises it up to baby care :unamused:

Wow, I had no idea this stuff was for real! I was just being silly and figured that flat headedness was just a common Taiwanese physical trait, like black hair or almond shaped eyes. I didn’t really believe it was from lying on the back as a child. But I googled the big words that daasgrrl posted and learned . . .

“Positional Brachycephaly is when the entire back of the head is flat and the head has the appearance of being wide and short. Positional Brachycephaly is most often seen when a child sleeps entirely on the back of his head.”

You’re right, Omni, maybe the thread shouldn’t be in the flounder forum but should be in the health section. I thought one should have the baby sleep on it’s back to lessen the risk of SIDS. Is that not true? Should one really have the baby sleep in other positions? Or perhaps if the baby sleeps only on the back it risks getting a flat head; if it sleeps in other positions then SIDs is a risk.

I will do that. I don’t know how to post my own digital photos online though. :blush: If you send me a PM telling me how I’ll try to post a photo soon.

My inlaws were admiring my baby’s round head too. :smiley: They all have flat heads. :neutral:

This is the situation as I understand it - sleeping on the stomach carries the most risk, followed by sleeping on the side, with the least risk sleeping on the back. Apparently in most cultures babies always sleep on their back - front sleeping was something of a ‘fad’ in Western cultures in the 60s and 70s and is related to treatment of premature babies who were found to develop better sleeping on their stomachs because of the contact.

Now, most western babies do not develop flat heads, because they naturally learn to roll over anywhere from two to six months old (this is a guess - I can’t remember all my developmental milestones!). After that, a lot of them will just roll over and sleep on their stomachs anyway, and a lot of parents just let them, because it’s not worth the fight. However there are babies who habitually like to sleep on their backs/favour one side, and hence the flattening can still happen. There are also devices you can buy that literally force a baby to sleep on his/her back, using velcro and such, and although no-one I know has used one of these I imagine some people would, and this would also contribute to a possible problem.

Having looked at some hammock sites, I actually think they sound like a bloody good idea. Back sleeping, very cosy, and no flattening :slight_smile:

I think you have to store the photo somewhere on the net first then reference it in your post using the IMG tags. If you don’t know how to do that, send it to me and I can do it for you.