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  • Why Is There a Soft Spot on My Baby's Head? It's Called a Fontanel

    Fontanels, or bumbunan in Tagalog, play an important role in your baby's brain growth
    by Lei Dimarucut-Sison .
Why Is There a Soft Spot on My Baby's Head? It's Called a Fontanel
  • Baby fontanels, or bumbunan in Tagalog, is that fragile spot on the top of your baby's head, that is apparent from the time he is born until he is about a few months old. If you look at it, it will appear as a round spot that is somewhat sunken or not covered with bones (skull) like the rest of his head. You may also notice it throbbing in the same rhythm as his heartbeat.

    What are fontanels?

    When your baby is born, his skull isn't immediately completely formed yet. Initially, it is made up of several pieces -- major bones that are connected by sutures, or fibrous materials which hold the different parts together. The gaps in between these bones are called fontanels.

    A baby is born with two fontanels: the anterior (or the soft spot) and the posterior. The posterior fontanel, near the back of his head, usually closes first, a few months after birth. The anterior fontanels takes about 1 1/2 to 2 years before it fully closes. The fontanels are protected by a tough membrane covering the underlying soft tissues and the brain.

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    What are fontanels for?

    The fontanels serve three main purpose:

    1. To facilitate baby's passage during childbirth

    In a vaginal birth, the baby commonly exits head first, which means his head will go through a narrow passage on his way out. The spaces between the cranial bones and the elastic sutures allow the baby to pass safely through the birth canal without getting injured. Through this divine design, the brain is kept protected during childbirth from pressure or trauma.

    2. To protect baby from head impact

    As your child grows, it won't be unusual for him to get minor blows or impact to the head in the day-to-day, especially during the first few months while he is trying to gain control to support his head. The sutures and fontanels act as cushion for these times, ensuring there is enough protection for the brain even as your baby gets minor blows to his head.

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    3. To accommodate baby's growing brain

    Your baby's brain develops and grows along with him. The fontanels serve as spaces or room for the brain to grow into, as the sutures also adjust. 

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    What to watch out for 

    The fontanels are a good indicator of your baby's health. There are two things that you must watch out for with regard to the fontanel:

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    A sunken fontanel may indicate several things:

    • Dehydration. This is the most common reason. Dehydration in infants can be dangerous, so seek medical attention immediately.
    • Diabetes insipidus, which is not a form of diabetes, but a rare condition where the kidneys are unable to hold in water.
    • Kwashiorkor. This means that the baby lacks protein and is seriously suffering from malnutrition

    A bulging fontanel could be a sign of any of the following:

    • A build-up of fluid around the brain
    • Increased pressure on the brain (which may indicate trauma)
    • An infection affecting the brain. See your pediatrician immediately, or go to the emergency room at once.

    Needless to say, a baby's head must be handled with care at all times. If any bumps or swelling become apparent, a trip to the emergency room would be a wise thing to make.

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