Baby soft spots or fontanels
Sunken or swollen baby soft spots or fontanels are a concern for many parents because they may be a sign of an underlying condition.
Anterior fontanelle, one of baby's soft spots.
This why, with your regular check-ups, your pediatrician will always check on your baby’s fontanel.
A sunken soft spot
A sunken soft spot or sunken fontanel can be a sign of dehydration especially if your baby has other symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.
If an infant forcefully vomits after his feedings, it may be a sign of pyloric stenosis. In this case, the muscle at the end of the stomach is thicker than normal, and food can not pass to the baby's bowel.
Other symptoms of this condition are poor weight gain, fewer wet nappies and bowel movements.
Bulging soft spot
A swelling or bulging soft spot on baby’s head can be a first sign of serious conditions like meningitis or hydrocephalus.
A persistent and larger fontanel can sometimes be associated with rare disorders, some of which involve developmental delay.
If for any reason you are concerned about your baby's soft spot ask your pediatrician at your next visit.
How many fontanels does a baby have?
A newborn has six fontanels.
- Anterior fontanel or the diamond shaped soft spot on the top of baby’s head.
- Posterior fontanel or soft spot at the back of baby’s head.
- Two mastoid and two sphenoid fontanels. These are the lateral fontanels on each side of the head.
Why do babies have soft spots or fontanels?
Baby soft spots allow the brain to grow during the first year of baby’s life.
This is why fontanels or soft spots usually not close before your baby is 18 to 24 months of age.
Those gaps in the skull make it also possible for baby’s head to pass through the birth canal. They allow an infant’s head to change shape for easier passage. Fontanel comes from the old French word ‘Fontaine’ which means little fountain or spring.
Some mothers are afraid to touch this soft spot on baby’s head because they feel that the brain is unprotected and vulnerable in this place. The fontanel is not that unprotected because it is covered by a tough fibrous membrane and touching it or washing baby’s hair won’t do any harm. Just take care you do not put any direct pressure on it.
Photography by Johan Dréo.