What Are Fontanelles? What You Should Know About Them

Have you heard the term before? But what are fontanelles? A fontanelle is a gap in the baby’s skull. Admittedly, not a nice idea. But it is a great invention of nature.

Here we explain why this is so!

What Are Fontanelles?

If you have stroked your baby’s head, you have already noticed how the hard skull suddenly softens in one place. But fontanelles are a clever invention of nature. In fact, newborns do not have a completely closed skull. Sounds strange? But it makes a lot of sense.

The skull thus consists of several movable bone plates. The areas where two of these bone plates adjoin are called cranial sutures.
Fontanelles are therefore so-called intersections of cranial sutures, i.e. the soft spots that you have already felt.

What Are Fontanelles Good For?

As the size of the pelvis changed in the course of evolution, it also became much narrower for babies at birth. The (still) open spots on the baby’s head allow the baby to fit through the narrow birth canal at birth.

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Another important function of the fontanelles is to allow the baby’s brain to grow unimpeded. Otherwise, it would be restricted in size.
Since the baby’s thermoregulatory system has yet to fully develop, you should always make sure that your baby’s head stays nice and warm.

What Do I Have To Keep In Mind?

The connective tissue of the fontanelles is very robust and not as sensitive as it may seem. Nevertheless, you should make absolutely sure that your baby does not get any shocks in this area.

Did you know? The large fontanel is actually a good indicator of your baby’s health. You can also tell if your baby is suffering from a lack of fluids. If this is the case, the fontanel would visibly sink in when lying down.

If your baby has a fever, other illnesses or injuries, the fontanelle will either be tense or bulging out.
As soon as you notice this, you should see a doctor immediately!

How Can I Tell That Everything Is Okay?

Your baby has a total of six fontanelles. The five smaller fontanelles close relatively quickly. The large fontanelle above your baby’s forehead, however, behaves differently. This can be felt very easily with the fingers.

You do not need to worry about the fontanelles. Your baby’s skull plates are connected with a robust connective tissue, which provides sufficient protection.
However, pay attention to the following:

  • When you hold your baby upright, the fontanel is flat or slightly sunken.
  • When your baby is lying down, it is flat or bulges out slightly.
  • When you gently stroke it, the area feels soft.
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You were able to answer all questions with “yes”? Then everything is probably in order. However, if you are still unsure, please contact your pediatrician or midwife.

Caution: If the large fontanelle bulges outward in an upright position, sinks significantly when lying down or feels permanently tense, you should consult your pediatrician immediately.
This could possibly be a serious condition.

When Do Fontanelles Close?

As you already know, your baby has five small fontanelles and one large one. The first five close from the first week of life. They usually disappear completely by the time the baby is one year old.

The large fontanelle, which forms a dimple on the forehead, takes a little longer to disappear completely. On average, it takes about 18 to 23 months until the large fontanelle is also completely closed and forms a unit with the skullcap.

However, this process varies from child to child. Deviations are therefore completely normal and no cause for concern.
Your doctor will also regularly check the progress of the fontanelles as part of the preventive check-up.

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You Should See A Doctor If You Notice These Signs

You can tell that something is wrong by these signs. For example, if the fontanelle.

…is clearly sunken in when lying down.

Has your baby drunk enough today? It could be an acute lack of fluids.

…bulges even when the baby is upright.

This may be a sign of inflammation, such as meningitis.

…is taut and does not give way when pressure is applied.

This could indicate increased pressure in the skull, a sign of hydrocephalus (water on the brain).

If this is true, your child has a fever, is vomiting or suffering from diarrhea, or you notice other irregularities, please see a pediatrician immediately. He or she can quickly assess whether there is a health risk for your baby. Basically, your pediatrician or midwife is always the right person to talk to if you are unsure.

Craniosynostosis – What Is It?

If the cranial sutures close too early, this can lead to deformations of the skull. This is called craniosynostosis, in which the skull can grow crooked, tower-like or triangular.

Surgery can correct this deformity. According to a 2011 University College London study, children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are 33 percent more likely to suffer from craniosynostosis.

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Deformities Due To Lying Position

Because the bone plates are still very soft, especially in the first few months, it is important not to put weight on them only on one side.
Many parents put their babies only on their backs to sleep for fear of sudden infant death syndrome.

But this can lead to a deformation of the skull in the long run.
The most important thing is that parents always lay their child down in different positions so that the child cannot develop a favored sleeping position.

What Are Fontanelles – The Most Important Facts At A Glance

As you already know, fontanelles have an enormously important task, especially during birth: by pushing the bone plates over each other, birth is made easier. Otherwise, your baby’s head would not fit through the birth canal.

Your baby has a total of 6 fontanelles. Two main fontanelles and four small ones. They also allow the baby’s brain to grow without any restrictions.
Of course, it can make you feel insecure when you notice that your baby has a dent in the head.

But this is completely normal and should be absolutely no reason for concern.
However, the rate at which the fontanelles close varies from child to child. If in doubt, you can consult your pediatrician.

Sources:

https://www.hallo-eltern.de/baby/fontanelle/#fontanelle-verformung
https://www.windeln.de/magazin/baby/entwicklung-baby/flacher-hinterkopf-beim-baby.html

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