When it comes to your baby, his/her growth and development are continuous and truly amazing. From a little mass of tissue formed immediately after conception, to the genius behind those strong kicks you feel in the later stages of pregnancy, the list is almost endless. Even after your baby is born, there are still many milestones to cross; including the closure of the soft spot on his/her head.
As a parent, it’s really important to learn about this soft spot on your baby’s head; what it is, when it closes, and how to care for it.
In this article, you’d find all the info you need for this and so much more.
Let’s Get Started!
Table of Contents:
- What’s A Soft Spot?
- Why Does My Baby Have a Soft Spot?
- When Does the Soft Spot Close?
- Why Is My Baby’s Soft Spot Moving?
- Is The Soft Spot on My Baby’s Head Harmful?
- Essential Care Tips for Your Baby’s Soft Spot
What’s A Soft Spot?
Here’s the fact: At birth, your baby’s skull needs to be flexible enough to pass through the birth canal.
For this to happen, the bones of the skull (which are connected by strong ligaments in adults) need to remain unfused. These unfused points are called fontanelles, or soft spots on your baby’s head.
Although most people only know about the soft spot at the front of their babies’ heads, there are actually two soft spots on a newborn’s head; one at the back (called the posterior fontanelle), and the popular soft spot at the top and towards the front (called the anterior fontanelle).
Why Does My Baby Have a Soft Spot?
As we mentioned earlier, the soft spot is really crucial to the process of vaginal delivery. In fact, the soft spots on your child’s head have two main functions:
- Easy passage of his/her head during vaginal delivery.
- Gives room for expansion to accommodate your baby’s brain growth.
When Does the Soft Spot Close?
Most parents often wonder when their baby’s soft spot would close.
Here’s the answer: The exact time of closure is unique to every child.
In most cases, the posterior fontanelle closes between the 2nd and 3rd months of life. On the other hand, the anterior fontanelle closes between the 6th and 18th months of life.
Why Is My Baby’s Soft Spot Moving?
Moving or pulsating soft spots aren’t weird.
In fact, it is a sign of healthy blood circulation in your baby’s brain. If you can feel your baby’s soft spot moving gently when you place your finger on it, this just means that blood flow to his/her brain is happening as it should.
You can only feel this movement because the skull bones at that point are still unfused.
Is The Soft Spot on My Baby’s Head Harmful?
In most cases, a baby’s soft spot should feel soft and slightly indented. However, obvious changes in the texture and appearance of your baby’s soft spot may be a sign of harmful health issues.
For example, a soft spot is considered to be a problem if it:
- Begins to bulge out
- Sinks inwards
Bulging Soft Spot (Fontanelle)
A bulging fontanelle is considered and treated as a medical emergency. In fact, if you notice that your baby’s soft spot is bulging outwards, please contact your doctor immediately. Generally, a bulging fontanelle results from increased pressure in a child’s brain.
The other causes of a bulging fontanelle include:
- Meningitis: a swelling of the brain and spinal cord tissue due to viral or bacterial infection
- Hydrocephalus: excessive accumulation of fluid in the brain
- Encephalitis: swelling of the brain due to infection
- Direct Hit or trauma to the head
- Bleeding in the brain
Sunken Soft Spot (Fontanelle)
This is usually a sign of dehydration.
If you notice that your baby’s soft spot looks deeper than it should, there’s a high chance that he/she is not getting enough fluids or breast milk. When this happens, it is really important to consult your pediatrician. If you are not producing enough milk, you can find help here on how to boost your breast milk supply.
In addition to a sunken soft spot, these are some of the other signs of dehydration in babies:
- Fewer wet diapers
- Reduced alertness
- Prolonged drowsiness
- Dry mouth
- Extremely cool skin
Nevertheless, it is important to note that babies who aren’t dehydrated may also have sunken soft spots. As a result, the best option is to consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis.
Large or Retained Soft Spot
If you notice that your baby’s soft spot is larger than it should be or it doesn’t close after the time frame mentioned earlier, please visit your doctor immediately.
This is really important because a retained or abnormally large soft spot may be a sign of serious medical conditions like Down Syndrome, Hypothyroidism, or Rickets.
If your baby’ soft spot has not closed after 18 months of life, please consult your pediatrician.
Essential Care Tips for Your Baby’s Soft Spot
Thankfully, it is really easy to care for your baby’s soft spot. In most cases, all you have to do is take note of the info in this article to understand what is normal and keep an eye out for the abnormal changes.
As you care for your little one, it is important to remember that:
- Both soft spots should look flat, with a slight downward curve, against your baby’s head.
- The soft spots should feel soft and pulsatile when you run your fingers over the top of your child’s head
- The anterior fontanelle may look slightly bulged when your baby is crying or lying down. Once your little one is calm or sitting upright, it should return to its normal position.
You can care for your child’s soft spot by placing a cute headband to protect the skull from direct hits.
Finally, it is important to remember that the soft spots on your baby’s head are completely normal and important for normal brain development. As a new parent, you don’t need to be bothered about these soft spots on your baby’s head. In fact, your doctor will observe both fontanelles during the delivery process and continue to monitor them during your regular postnatal clinics.
However, you should keep an eye out for the warning signs mentioned in this article as your little one grows into a strong and healthy child.
Enjoy the journey, Mama.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Facts about craniosynostosis. Updated December 5, 2019.
- American Academy of Pediatrics. Reducing sudden infant death with “Back to Sleep.”
- Takagi D, Oren-Ziv A, Shles A, Schujovitzky D, Yechiam H, Rosenbloom E. Bulging fontanelle in febrile infants as a predictor of bacterial meningitis. Eur J Pediatr. 2021 Apr;180(4):1243-1248. doi: 10.1007/s00431-020-03865-4. Epub 2020 Nov 9. PMID: 33169238.
- Oumer M, Guday E, Teklu A, Muche A. Anterior fontanelle size among term neonates on the first day of life born at University of Gondar Hospital, Northwest Ethiopia. PLoS One. 2018 Oct 26;13(10):e0202454. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0202454. PMID: 30365494; PMCID: PMC6203250.