Teething and ear infections are some of the major causes of babies tilting head to shoulder, but the major culprit is torticollis. Torticollis is caused by neck trauma, swelling in the neck, brain or eye injury, or just a toddler learning how to walk upright. It usually isn’t a significant cause of concern, and at home, exercises will rectify the problem. Still, it’s important to discuss your observations with your child’s pediatrician or therapist to rule out its more dangerous form, the congenital muscular torticollis.
With the joy and pleasure that newborns bring, they also come with many peculiarities. Tilting head to shoulder is one of them.
The case is they keep their head to one specific side; even if the parent straightens it, the head goes right back. So why is your baby tilting their head to your shoulder?
If your baby doesn’t do it so often and the head doesn’t go back after straightening it up, then there’s no problem.
But if this happens regularly and the baby refuses to keep its head straight, then there’s a problem.
The possible reason is a disease called torticollis which is a problem with the neck muscles.
It is not a life-threatening disease, and the treatment in most cases is usually straightforward.
But it should be taken seriously because it can increase and give the child a permanent neck problem if completely ignored.
What causes a baby to tilt head to shoulder?
Although there can be several reasons why your baby might be tilting its head to the shoulder, including teething problems and ear infections, below are the most common or possible ones.
1. Congenital torticollis or wryneck
This is the most common reason your baby might be tilting its head to the shoulder.
Torticollis, also known as wryneck, is a problem involving the neck muscles responsible for tilting the head.
In this case, there’s a knot in those muscles that makes them shorter than the muscles on the other side.
So now you must be starting to understand why your little one is tilting its head always to one particular side.
The shorter muscles force the baby to tilt its head to that side. Congenital means this disease is present in the baby’s body from birth.
It might take a few weeks before you notice the symptoms, and it could go up to a few months until any symptoms are revealed.
2. Acquired torticollis
In this case, you can get an idea from the word acquired that the baby isn’t born with torticollis.
Instead, they acquire torticollis after birth for particular reasons, including inherited nervous problems, bone problems in the spine, or traumatic birth.
In this case, the symptoms might not be as clear as congenital torticollis.
The baby might have a problem moving its head in any direction, and also, there could be a detectable lump growing in the neck.
You might also notice that one side of the baby’s face has flattened after some time.
3. Klippel-Feil syndrome
Another probable but rare cause of this head tilting problem is the Klippel-Feil Syndrome, where the problem is started because of the fusion of two or more neck sides or cervical vertebrates.
The other symptoms of Klippel-Feil syndrome are broad and short necks and very limited movement of the head, and it is a very rare disease to be found.
How can you care for your child with torticollis at home?
If your little one has torticollis, it’s essential to stretch your baby’s tight neck muscles several times a day.
In addition, you can…
- Put your baby on their back on the changing table or on a clean carpeted floor.
- If your baby’s head is tilted to the right, gently tilt your baby’s left ear towards their left shoulder. The chin points towards the right shoulder.
- If your baby’s head is tilted to the left, gently tilt the right ear towards the right shoulder. The chin points towards the left shoulder.
- Do things that allow your baby to turn their chin towards the correct shoulder.
- During feeding, hold your baby so that they can turn their chin towards the correct position.
- Place the baby on the changing table or in their crib so that they can turn their chin the correct way and see the room and everything else around them.
- Place toys and other objects so that the little ones can turn their heads and see them and play with them.
- Practice tummy time with your baby on a firm surface. This helps them learn to lift their heads, strengthening and stretching their neck muscles.
- Make sure to watch your baby during tummy time. Do not leave them unattended when they’re in this position.
How do I know if my baby has an ear infection or is teething?
You must pay attention to the different symptoms.
If your baby has an ear infection, the body temperature will go up to 104 degrees Fahrenheit or 40 degrees Celsius.
In the case of teething, it remains below 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius.
If it is an ear infection, your little one will develop a cold too, and there will be discharge coming from the ear, and they will lose balance.
How long does torticollis last?
Wryneck often improves within 24-48 hours. However, it may take up to a week for the symptoms to completely disappear.
Occasionally the symptoms last longer or come back at a later time for no apparent reason.
Baby tilting head to shoulder teething is quite a common problem that the parents of newborns have to handle quite often.
Sometimes there’s no particular reason behind it which is a relief, but sometimes it is the common torticollis.
Don’t panic if your baby is doing it but at the same time, take it seriously. Reach out to your pediatrician to set an appointment and have your little one checked.