The Soft Spots on Babies’ Head

Newborns are born with a skull that is not fully developed, which leaves soft spots on the baby’s head called fontanelles. Fontanelles are an anatomical feature of the human skull between the newborn and infancy stages separating the five major skull bones that are made of soft membranous gaps. These membranous gaps function as seams in the cranial structure until the bone fully connects all the way around into the skull. They make it possible for bony plates to compress and overlap as the head passes through the narrow birth canal during delivery. The gaps also allow a baby’s skull to expand fully, making room for the rapid brain growth that occurs within the first year of life. There are two major soft spots, the anterior and posterior fontanelles, which are located at the top of the head in the front and back sides.

Soft spots are vulnerable points for babies. In the first few months of a baby’s life, both soft spots should be open and flat. Within two to three months, the posterior fontanelle, or the soft spot at the back of the baby’s head, should begin to close. The anterior fontanelle, or the soft spot at the front of the baby’s head, may close around the time your child turns eighteen months old. The soft spots are sensitive, but can be touched very gently. Holding the baby and supporting the head will not hurt the child, but it is important to remind friends, family member, and caregivers to be careful and gentle with your baby’s head.

The fontanelles can also be tell-tale signs of underlying issues. Certain issues or conditions can alter the appearance of fontanelles, such as dehydration which can cause the soft spot to sink into the skull or infection which can cause the membrane to swell higher than the surrounding skull. If your baby is not getting enough breast milk or formula, the fontanelle can appear sunken or discolored. Sunken fontanelles do not only occur in the case of dehydration. If you suspect that your child may be suffering from an illness or affliction, contact your Goldsboro Pediatrician to make a diagnosis.

If your baby gets hit on the fontanelle, contact your baby’s pediatrician at Goldsboro Pediatrics. Swelling or bulging of the soft spot and bruising around the eyes or behind the ears are all signs of head trauma, which can be serious in babies. If your baby has suffered significant head trauma, call 911 immediately. Other signs of head injury include nonstop crying, an unwillingness to be fed, vomiting, seizures, discharge or blood from the ears or nose, and difficulty waking after sleep.

A lack of fontanelles in your child can also be a problem. The rare condition called craniosynostosis occurs when bones in the baby’s skull fuse together earlier than normal which can result in a misshapen head. If your child lacks soft spots on the head, has a misshapen skull that is not growing over time, or has raised, firm edges where the skull plates meet, your pediatrician will discuss the issue and monitor at your baby’s first appointment. Soft spots are important for skull development, which is why ensuring that they are connected and developing properly is crucial. Protecting your baby’s fontanelles creates the healthiest future for your child and her developing brain and skull. If you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s fontanelles, your Goldsboro pediatrician can answer and assure you as your baby is thoroughly monitored by our practice.

National Library of Medicine

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