It can be a daunting time becoming a new parent, with so much to learn about caring for your baby. To add to all that you must learn, the soft spot on your baby’s head (called a fontanel) may make you even more nervous. The good news is that these soft spots are simple to care for and typically go away by the time your child is 2 years old.
What are Fontanels?
Babies are born with a few soft spots on their head, known as fontanels. The largest one is called the anterior fontanel, which is diamond-shaped and is on the top of the head.
Fontanels are open areas of the skull that have yet to fuse and join together. The fontanels allow the skull bones to move and overlap to make you and your baby’s birth process easier. The fontanels also allow space for the rapid growth of your baby’s brain during the first two years of life.
The anterior fontanel is the last of the fontanels to close. This process starts when your baby is around 6 months old, but it can take until they are 2 years old for it to close completely.
Cause for Concern?
There is no need to feel apprehensive about touching or washing your baby’s fontanels; they are covered by a strong, thick membrane that keeps them well protected during day-to-day activities.
It’s helpful to learn what to watch for, as changes or abnormalities in the fontanels can provide important clues about your baby’s health and may indicate the need for medical attention.
If you gently touch your baby’s fontanel, it should feel soft and appear almost flat with a slight inward curve. It shouldn’t look like it’s bulging or swollen or like it has sunk into the skull.
Sometimes the fontanel can look like it’s pulsating. This is perfectly normal and is just the pulsing of blood that coincides with your baby’s heartbeat.
If the fontanel appears sunken, it may suggest dehydration – but there are additional signs to look for to confirm this such as fewer wet diapers, excessive sleepiness, irritability, and your child being less alert and responsive. You should see your pediatrician right away if your baby is showing signs of dehydration.
Your baby’s fontanel may appear raised or bulge when crying or having a bowel movement. This is nothing to worry about, especially if it returns to normal after the crying or pooping are over. If your baby’s fontanel feels hard and swollen when your baby is upright and calm, it may indicate a health problem such as an infection or swelling in the brain, both of which require urgent medical treatment.
Talk to Your Pediatrician
It can be hard to tell if your baby’s fontanel looks normal so, if you have concerns or would like further advice about caring for your baby’s fontanel, then talk to your pediatrician who will be able to provide the care and support you require.
Children’s Health Care in Massachusetts can provide the compassionate and personalized care you and your child are looking for. For a consultation or to schedule an appointment, contact us by calling (978) 465-7121 or (978) 388-9880 in Newburyport, or (978) 373-6557 in Haverhill or request an appointment now. We look forward to helping you and your family live a happy, healthy life together.