Your new born baby is extremely delicate and fragile. Needless to say a newborn’s body is very different from that of a grown baby. You will notice that the baby has a little hollow in its chest along with two soft spots on the head. Many new moms get extremely nervous about these soft spots on the head and get scared to handle the baby. We have tried to answer some of the questions every new mom has regarding these soft spots on your baby’s head.
Your baby has two soft spots on his or her head, one big and one small. These soft spot are called fontanels. They may vary in size as well, though only very slightly.
At the time of birth, your baby’s head is relatively softer and connected by tissue so that it can easily pass through the birthing canal. The fontanels give the head of the baby, flexibility to adjust the shape so that it can squeeze through the narrow canal. This process is also known as molding, and thus allows the baby’s head to change shape while being born. So, basically these soft spots are sections of the skull that, haven’t closed, yet. The baby’s skull bones in this area haven’t yet developed and hence help in vaginal delivery. These soft spots remain open for a while to make room for the baby’s brain, which will develop as the baby grows.
In case you already haven’t figured it out, there are two soft spots on an infant’s head. One is located in the center of the head and the other one is located at the back. The one at the back of the head is smaller than the frontal fontanel and is triangular in shape. The front one is in the shape of a diamond and slightly larger in size. These spots or fontanels are easy to identify; one because they are soft as compared to other part of the head and second because they pulsate just like the heart.
These soft spots close naturally in the due course of time. The fontanel located at the back of the head, also known as posterior fontanel, takes about 6 weeks to close. The fontanel in the front, also known as anterior fontanel takes a little longer to close. The anterior fontanel takes about 18 months to close to accommodate your baby’s growing brain.
The fontanels are soft and you need to be careful about them while handling the baby. Although it is perfectly safe to touch these soft spots make sure you don’t apply excessive pressure on them especially while you are massaging your baby. While lifting the baby, slowly and gently, put on hand below the baby’s head and then lift the baby. Also ask everyone in the family to do so and be careful about the soft spots.
Both the fontanels are covered with thick issues and form a thick membrane so it unlikely that you will injure the baby by touching or rubbing these soft spots. Hence, it’s absolutely safe to mildly massage the baby or gently rub some shampoo on your baby’s head while you are giving him a shower.
Generally, these soft spots have a slight depression and are soft to touch but if you notice that the depression is a little deeper than usual that means your baby is dehydrated. Feed him ample liquid in such situation and if the depression is still the same consult the doctor as early as possible.
If you observe that the fontanel looks a little swollen it could be because of excessive crying, coughing or vomiting. There is nothing to worry about if the swelling subsides in a few hours. If the swelling persists even after 6-7 hours it is advisable to consult the doctor.
Also if your baby falls or bumps his head somewhere and gets a fever soon after, consult the doctor immediately.
The posterior fontanel generally closes in 6 weeks but in some cases it could take to about 2-3 months to close. The closing of the anterior fontanel varies from child to child but it closes by the end of the 18th month. If it takes longer that the usual time frame for your baby’s fontanel to close it is advisable that you consult the doctor.
If the baby’s fontanel’s close way too early it is not a good sign. It could mean that baby’s brain had stopped growing and it could result in mental retardation or blindness. Consult the doctor at the earliest in such cases.