Cranial plagiocephaly, also known as “flat head syndrome”, is a common condition observed in about half of babies in their first year of life. Fortunately, it is not life-threatening and treatable with corrective helmets that a newborn must wear for a few weeks or months.
As much as these helmets will help your baby, they’re not as colorful and attractive as the other accessories and clothing made for infants. Given that they usually come in a plain white color, they could look rather sad on your baby.
But if you want to spruce it up a bit, the good news is you have an artist to go to.
More than ten years ago, artist Paula Strawn had a friend whose granddaughter was prescribed one of these corrective helmets. This friend approached her and asked if she could make the headgear a bit more fun.
“I had never seen a baby with a helmet before this time and they quickly explained what it was for. I was a little intimidated as I hadn’t painted on anything like this before but it went well and they were very happy,” Paula told PEOPLE.
Paula was staying in Southern California at the time, and after she finished painting the corrective helmet for her friend’s granddaughter, she started getting inquiries from other parents whose babies also wear the same helmets.
Soon after, Paula’s work began to gain popularity across the state. It wasn’t long after she started getting requests from people all over the country.
“Within the year it was my main painting work for folks all over Southern California and within a couple years I started hearing from folks around the states,” Paula recalled. “The last few years it’s been my full-time business. I get helmets shipped me to daily from all over the country.”
Paula now lives in Washington and says that she has painted over 3,200 helmets in the 15 years since she painted her first piece.
Some of her masterpieces are posted on her Instagram page and once you see them, you will understand just why thousands of parents patronize Paula’s work – the helmets just look so cute!
“It’s a fun, friendly and personal design that brings smiles to baby and a chance for parents to have a conversation about the helmet instead of pity [from others]. Smiles are always preferable over pity!” she said.
Depending on the design, each corrective helmet can take anywhere between three hours to twelve hours to finish. Paula uses water-based non-toxic paint on them. As for the price, the longer it takes to paint, the higher it gets, but the average cost varies from $220 to $300 per helmet. Paula also gives discounts to those in the military and twin helmets.
“I feel blessed beyond all belief to be doing this work, helping others and bringing tons of smiles to babies,” Paula said. “Looking back on my life, I feel that I was led to do this. It feels more like a calling than a job.”
Because Paula is doing such great work, more helmets will be coming her way for sure!
This story first appeared on PEOPLE.