During your first days as a mum, you'll notice something called baby soft spots on your little one's head.
Also known as fontanelles, they are anatomical features present in newborn skulls, between the plates of bone, that are quite visible and look like little gaps on the skin. In total, there are four baby soft spots: the posterior fontanelle, located in the back of your munchkin's head, two smaller ones on each side of the skull, and the anterior fontanelle, which is the largest one, usually kite or diamond-shaped and it's found on the top of the baby's head. If you pay attention to those fontanelles, you may see them pulsing in time with your child's heartbeat, due to the intense vascular activity in the area.
Isn't it fascinating? If you want to know why soft spots are so important for your son or daughter and how to behave around them, check out the following post for further information.
Baby soft spots, a vital mission
A baby's skull is formed by six soft bones that are connected by elastic tissue, rather than fused. This isn't a trivial detail, since this fact allows the baby's head to be 'deformable' and change its shape (into an oblong one) when the little one passes through the birth canal. But that's not all! Baby soft spots allow the brain to grow all the way inside the skull bones, and they also help blood pressure balance in the head.
Basically, not only do such gaps between bones play an important role during delivery, but they also ensure that our brains reach their full size.
You don't have to worry about your munchkin's soft spots, as long as the bones meet and the closure takes place without any problems. Keep in mind that this process can take years, but that varies depending on how fast your baby is developing. Generally, fontanelles don't close until after 18 months old, though they can start doing so as early as 6 weeks after birth. What's for sure, though, is that soft spots won't remain on your baby's head forever.
How to behave around baby soft spots
You need to be extra careful with your baby's head, and that's no news. However, baby soft spots don't entail higher risks of damage, since a strong membrane protects them. Don't feel weird around fontanelles, because you'll end up touching them no matter what, especially when you wash your child's hair during his bathing time. Baby soft spots do look fragile, we won't disagree on that, but they are a lot more resistant than it seems!
When to worry about baby soft spots
After having your baby, your paediatrician will check his fontanelles regularly, on the lookout for any abnormalities. Most times, the baby's head bones develop normally, though there are certain cases in which fontanelles can indicate health issues. You should be concerned if they are:
- Bulging: fontanelles can bulge for a moment when babies cry, vomit, lie down or strain to poo. But when bulging soft spots are sustained over time, this could be a sign of hydrocephalus, an excessive accumulation of liquid in the brain, or infections such as meningitis, which require immediate medical attention.
In order to rule out any conditions or traumas when baby soft spots are pooching out, try to calm your baby down. If his fontanelles still bulge once he's quiet, and that is accompanied by fever, then you have to seek medical help right away, as your child may be suffering from any of the problems listed above.
- Caved in: on the contrary, if such gaps in the skull are sunken, you should suspect that your baby could be dehydrated or malnourished. Anyway, they both need to be evaluated by a doctor.
There's no reason to panic about baby soft spots. Clearly, they are a natural mechanism that allows us to be born and develop our brain, which by the age of three will have grown so much and produced billions of cells and trillions of synapses (neural connections). So yes, after all, we have to thank fontanelles for letting our 'engine' operate at its best.