Parenting: newborns to toddlers
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Some parents in China have taken to using helmets and moulds to make sure their babies have round heads. Photo: Getty Images

New fad in China has parents putting helmets and moulds on their babies to make their heads more round

  • The parents want to take advantage of the babies’ soft bones and avoid having kids with flat heads
  • Ironically, flat heads used to be considered lucky and parents would make their kids sleep on books

Believing that a round head is more beautiful, Chinese parents are taking to social media, such as the trendsetting forum Xiaohongshu, to discuss “miracle” equipment that helps “correct a baby’s head shape”.

Babies have soft bones, and their heads will change shape during their young lives. The new trend has parents trying to take advantage and make their child’s head more round.
One mother wrote a popular Xiaohongshu post titled “I took my baby to head-shape correction, despite my family’s protests”. In the story, she detailed the procedures she put her baby through.
An advertisement shows how a pillow for babies will help their head become more round. Photo: Taobao
In September, she wrote that, because her baby loves to sleep on her back, her head looked “flat and stretched out”. The mother tried to make her baby sleep on her side, but it was ineffective.

When the baby was seven months old, the mother took her to a local clinic to get custom-made “head correction gear”.

The clinic employees wrapped the baby’s head in layers of plaster to measure it and then made a mould to fit the baby’s head. The mould could be removed, but it was designed to stay on the baby for long periods throughout the day to “guide” the growth of the head, much like a retainer for teeth.

When the woman received resistance online, she defended herself and said: “I think wearing a head helmet has the same function as wearing braces, which is to correct a body part and make it more beautiful.”

“I have a flat head, and I know how painful it is for women who are chasing beauty. I don’t want my kid to grow up and regret this part of herself,” she said.

Some people supported her decision, saying in comments that “nobody would put a helmet on their baby for no reason. The suffering now is for a beautiful head in the future. Your baby will grow up appreciating your hard work!”

But others also opposed the act. One person wrote: “You do not need to go through this trouble. When babies get older, they roll around in their sleep, and the shape adjusts back automatically … do not let your anxiety put your child through all this pain.”

An advertisement for a sleeping mat that is designed to alter the shape of a baby’s head.

Taobao and other e-commerce sites sell an array of “head-shape correction” products such as pillows, helmets and mats for parents who do not want to take their children to clinics.

Taobao is owned by Alibaba, which also owns the South China Morning Post.

A Taobao shop staff who sells head correction pillows for children under two years old told the Post they have received positive feedback for their product and recommended “getting it soon if there is a need” because the product sells out fast and storage is tight.

“We have a professional head-shape setting pillow from South Korea,” the staff member said. “If your baby is three months old, there should be a noticeable change in about 45 days. The older the baby gets, the slower their skull develops.”

An advertisement for the shop read: “Slanted heads, flat heads, sharp heads, please enter our shop”.

This particular pillow costs 306 yuan (US$47) and the shop sold about 200 units per month.

“My baby loves to sleep on his back and now has a flat head, I hope to try to correct it,” one buyer said on the shop’s homepage.

Do not let your anxiety put your child through all this pain.
An online comment criticising parents who alter their baby’s head shape

The desire for a round head is a shift in fads in China. Decades ago, people believed flat heads and large foreheads were a sign of good luck. Some parents made their children sleep on books or wooden boards to flatten the back of their heads.

However, according to medical professionals, early-stage child development is best left to Mother Nature.

A Nanjing-based paediatrician surnamed Guo said helmets are used in hospital treatments for skull development. If there is a legitimate medical issue, then the parents should visit a professional for a diagnosis.

“But it is meaningless to correct a baby’s head shape for beauty purposes,” he said. “It could just be the parents are reflecting their anxieties onto their kids.”

This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Worried parents head for ‘helmets’ in new baby fad