Baby’s Soft Spot: When Should Fontanelles Close? banner

By westgate August 20, 2020

Baby’s Soft Spot: When Should Fontanelles Close?

Most people have a soft spot in their hearts for newborn babies. If you’re a new parent, you may not realize that babies also have soft spots – on their heads. Also called fontanelles, these soft spots are completely normal and they are necessary for babies. Fontanelles are actually openings in the skull bones to allow for the skull shape to change to accommodate:

  • Vaginal delivery through the narrow birth canal
  • Brain and head growth over the first two years of life

Newborns have 6 different fontanelles: on the top of the head (typically the largest one), back of the skull and on the sides of the head near the temples and behind the ears. As your child grows, these fontanelles close naturally for most children – each area closing at different ages.

  • Back fontanelle (posterior): 6 weeks to 3 months of age
  • Side fontanelles near the temples (sphenoid): 6 months of age
  • Side fontanelles behind the ears (mastoid): 6 months to 18 months of age
  • Top fontanelle (anterior): 6 months to 2 years of age

It’s important to be gentle with your baby’s soft spots and watch for any signs of complications. Normal conditions of a fontanelle include:

  • Softness
  • Flat or slightly curved down
  • Pulsating

If the fontanelle looks swollen when your baby is calm or significantly sunken, contact your pediatrician. Your baby could be dehydrated or there could be a build-up of fluids in the brain. Babies that spend too much time in one prone position could also develop a flatness to their heads (plagiocephaly) in the areas of fontanelles. If you are concerned about the shape of your baby’s head, talk to your pediatrician to discuss options such as increasing tummy time, safely changing their sleep position or even using a special helmet to reshape your baby’s soft skull. 

Even though these soft spots may seem extremely fragile, it’s okay to gently touch these areas for bathing, combing hair, etc. In fact, it’s important to monitor the spots yourself so you can be aware of any changes. Just be sure than anyone holding your baby is as careful with these areas as you are.

The team at Westgate Family Physicians are pediatric doctors in Spartanburg, SC, who care for infants and young children, closely monitoring fontanelles and other developmental changes. If you would like to schedule an appointment for your child with our compassionate, experienced team, please call (864) 574-0070 or click here. If you are concerned about your baby’s soft head spot in Spartanburg, contact us right away.