What is that Soft Spot on My Baby's Head ?
New parents can be a little freaked out by the appearance of small depressed areas on the top and back of their baby's head.
These spots feel softer than the rest of the baby's head, as though the skull bone is missing.
Don't worry! Not only are these soft spots normal, but they are critical for the baby's healthy growth.
These soft spots are called fontanelles, and are places where the bones of the skull have not yet fused.
These serve two purposes.
First, it allows your baby's head to change shape slightly while being born, so that the pressure of passing through the birth canal does not damage either baby or mother.
Second, your baby's brain grows at a tremendous rate during the first weeks and months of life, much faster than bone tissue does. The soft spots allow for the skull bones to spread and accommodate the growth of the brain, and the bone growth catches up later.
The fontanelle on the back of the baby's head closes first, usually between two and four months of age. The spot on the top of the head stays open well past your baby's first birthday, and usually closes completely between 16 and 24 months of age.
It is perfectly normal to see your baby's pulse or heartbeat in the soft spot. It can bulge slightly when the baby is straining while crying, throwing up, or having a bowel movement. It is normal for the soft spot to appear slightly depressed from the area around it.
New parents are often nervous about touching their child's soft spot, afraid that his or her brain is just under the surface. While you should not press hard on that spot, a tough membrane under the skin protects your baby' brain. Minerals build up on the membrane over time to close the fontanelle.
There are two rare but dangerous conditions to watch out for with your baby's soft spot. If the depression appears significantly deeper than usual, it can be a symptom of severe dehydration. If the soft spot appears to be bulging outward, it can indicate a buildup of pressure inside the brain caused by an injury or infection. Both of these are potential emergencies and you should take your baby to the doctor as soon as possible.
While the appearance and feel of your baby's soft spots can be alarming for new parents, they are completely normal and do not need any special care other than protecting them as you would any other delicate part of his or her body. They will close up when no longer needed. If you have any questions or concerns about the soft spots, ask your pediatrician during your routine checkup appointment.