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Mom’ Question:

Did I hurt my baby’s fontanelle..?! I accidentally pushed on my baby’s fontanelle while trying to grab/right his head when he pulled away suddenly. Have I hurt it or him?

How easy is it to actually hurt a baby’s soft spot and his brain?


Baby Helpline:

Hurting A Baby’s Soft Spot (Fontanelle)

What is a Baby’s Fontanelle?

A baby’s soft spot or fontanel is made of a tough fibrous membrane and serves as a cushion that protects your baby’s brain.

Even though most of us think about the baby’s fontanel as the soft spot at the top of their heads, there are actually 6 fontanelles on a baby’s head! They are at the junctions of the baby’s cranial bones and exist to make it possible for the baby’s head to become a bit molded and thereby pass through the birth canal more easily.

Babies born through VBAC often have quite a funny head shape – egghead shaped – which is due to these fontanels. As moms, we should all be happy that they exist!

The fontanelles start closing when the baby is around 2 months old. But the fontanelle at the top of the baby’s head will not close until the baby’s second year of living.

How Vulnerable are the Fontanelles?

A lot of parents, myself included the first time, are very afraid to even touch their baby’s fontanel. It is a very special area of a baby’s body and even a target for folk myths as you can read about here. But the soft spot is actually more like a helmet for the baby’s brain than the opposite. And just think of the pressure on the spot during birth; a baby’s soft spot can obviously not be that vulnerable!

Certainly, accidents can occur, and direct penetration through the soft spot would happen more easily than through the skull, and of course be very dangerous. But a push is not likely to be dangerous unless it is very hard and hence affects the brain through a high fall for example.

So if it is only the case that you happened to push your baby’s soft spot a bit while taking care of your baby, it is very unlikely that he has been injured.

If the push was very hard or if you notice any changes in your baby’s behavior (appears extra sleepy, dizzy, or anything like that), do contact a doctor immediately.

Warning Signs from Baby’s Soft Spot

In addition to direct penetration or a hard push or fall, there are actually other signs of something being wrong that can be indicated by the fontanelle.

A Swollen Fontanelle

If after a fall or push, your baby’s soft spot appears to be swollen, this could indicate a head injury, especially if there are other signs of a head injury after a fall. But even without other signs of injury, a swollen soft spot is a reason to contact a doctor.

A sunken fontanel

A sunken fontanel can indicate dehydration. For example, if your baby is sick and won’t eat, this could lead to dehydration quite quickly in babies.

A bulging soft spot

If the baby’s soft spot is bulging somewhere, this could be a sign of illness too. the bulging can be due to, for example, buildup of fluid or even a tumor or internal bleeding.

A soft spot that closes too early or stays open for too long

A soft spot that doesn’t follow to normal development – either closing too quickly or not closing, are both be reasons to talk to your baby’s healthcare provider. It is not easy as a parent to assess the soft spot, and if you are at all worried, talk to a doctor and have your baby examined.

Remember though, that in most cases everything is just fine!

So to conclude – a baby’s fontanelles have a lifesaving function as they help the birth in a safe way. They are not very vulnerable, but can, of course, be injured.

Keep an eye on your baby’s behavior and to the appearance of the fontanelle, you happened to push. Contact a doctor if you are at all worried.

Warm wishes,

Paula

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  1. sister

    I am a sister of a 2 old month baby girl! I once carried her and noticed she had a soft spot all I wanted to do was run to the doctor and ask bout the soft spots she had on her head! I texted my friend and she told me they where normal but not to touch them hard!! So I darted calming down (: if u are a mother or an older sister like me…don’t be scare of soft spots there normal (: it’s part of growing up for babies !!!

    P.S thank god she is fine