What is a Fontanelle and Why is it Important?
A fontanelle, also known as a soft spot, is a gap between the bones of the skull in a baby or young child. Fontanelles allow the skull to grow and change shape as the brain develops. They also help the baby’s head pass through the birth canal during delivery.
There are two main fontanelles: the anterior fontanelle, which is located at the top of the head, and the posterior fontanelle, which is located at the back of the head. The anterior fontanelle is usually larger and more noticeable than the posterior fontanelle. Both fontanelles usually close by the time the child is 2 years old.
How to Check a Fontanelle
It is normal for a fontanelle to feel soft and slightly indented when you touch it gently with your fingers. However, you should check your baby’s fontanelle regularly for any signs of abnormality, such as:
- A bulging fontanelle, which may indicate increased pressure in the brain due to infection, bleeding, or hydrocephalus (a condition where fluid builds up in the brain).
- A sunken fontanelle, which may indicate dehydration or malnutrition.
- A tense or hard fontanelle, which may indicate inflammation or infection of the membranes covering the brain (meningitis).
If you notice any of these signs, you should seek medical attention for your baby as soon as possible.
How to Care for a Fontanelle
A fontanelle does not need any special care or protection. You can wash your baby’s hair and scalp as usual, and you can gently comb or brush their hair. You do not need to avoid touching or rubbing the fontanelle, as this will not harm it. However, you should avoid applying any pressure or force on the fontanelle, as this may cause injury or damage to the underlying brain tissue.
You should also protect your baby’s head from any trauma or injury, such as falls, bumps, or blows. You can use a soft helmet or hat to cover their head when they are crawling or playing. You should also avoid exposing your baby’s head to extreme heat or cold, as this may affect their body temperature regulation.
A fontanelle is a normal and important feature of a baby’s skull that allows their brain to grow and develop. You should check your baby’s fontanelle regularly for any signs of abnormality, and seek medical attention if you notice any. You should also care for your baby’s fontanelle by washing their hair and scalp as usual, avoiding pressure or force on the fontanelle, and protecting their head from trauma or temperature extremes.
FAQs About Fontanelles
Here are some common questions and answers about fontanelles:
- When do fontanelles close?
The posterior fontanelle usually closes by the time the baby is 2 to 3 months old. The anterior fontanelle usually closes by the time the baby is 18 to 24 months old. However, some babies may have their fontanelles close earlier or later than these ranges, and this is usually not a cause for concern.
- Can fontanelles reopen?
No, fontanelles do not reopen once they are closed. However, some babies may have a small gap or depression in their skull after their fontanelles close, and this is normal and harmless. This gap or depression may become more noticeable when the baby cries or strains, and it may disappear as the baby grows older.
- Can fontanelles affect the shape of the head?
Yes, fontanelles can affect the shape of the head, especially in the first few months of life. This is because the skull bones are still soft and flexible, and they can be molded by external forces, such as the pressure of the womb, the birth canal, or the baby’s sleeping position. This may result in a temporary flattening or asymmetry of the head, which is known as positional plagiocephaly. This condition is usually harmless and resolves on its own as the baby grows older and changes their head position more frequently. However, in some cases, positional plagiocephaly may persist or worsen, and this may require treatment with a special helmet or band that helps reshape the head.