All babies have them! The small, circular, soft spot on top of your newborns head, which is actually called the fontanel. What you may not know is that there are actually two fontanels on your newborn. The anterior fontanel is on top and the posterior fontanel is at the back of the head.
Soft spots are placed where the skull has not completely closed at birth. The anterior fontanel is about two inches wide and may not be closed completely until your baby is 18 months old. The posterior fontanel is only about a half inch wide and will be closed by the time your baby is three months old, much earlier than the anterior soft spot.
Soft spots are present for several different reasons and are very important in terms of your baby’s health. First and foremost, having a gap in the skull allows the head to change shape making it easier for your baby to come down the birth canal. This is why some babies are born with a cone shaped head.
Second, the soft spots allow room for your baby’s brain to grow during the first year of life. During this time your baby’s brain will grow very rapidly and it needs to have somewhere to grow. If the skull was closed there would be no way for the skull to stretch and expand.
Another use of soft spots by doctors is to check your baby’s hydration level when your baby is sick. Most of the time the fontanel will expand and move when your baby laughs, cries and breathes. When your baby is sick however and get dehydrated his fontanel will sink into his head. If your baby has a depressed fontanel, call your pediatrician and ask him what you should do.
There is nothing special you have to do to take care of your baby’s fontanel. You mainly have to make sure that you are careful around that spot since there is in essence, no protection covering your baby’s brain in that spot. Wash it gently and be sure not to let any older brothers and sisters accidentally push on it while playing with their new “toy”.
If you think there is anything wrong with your baby’s soft spots, or feel that they might be closing too soon, be sure to ask your pediatrician at your baby’s next well-check, or call your pediatrician to ask him. Most of the time everything will be fine, but it is better to be safe than sorry, and that is what he is there for.
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