Soft Spots

Question

Dr. Greene, at what age does the soft spot on the top of a baby’s head close?

Dr. Greene's Answer

A wall of bone protects your baby’s brain; but at the “soft spot,” only soft, squishy tissue separates the brain from the traumas of the outside world. The soft spot seems so vulnerable. I’ve spoken with mothers who had never touched their babies’ soft spots — they were afraid they would put their fingers through it.

The medical word for soft spot is fontanel. Fontanels are examples of the amazing design of the human body. At birth, there are six fontanels, but only two are noticeable (the largest, up on top, is the anterior fontanel). The loose connections of the skull bones that intersect in the soft spots make labor and delivery possible. Without this flexible anatomy, either human babies would have to have smaller brains, or human mothers would have to have wider hips!

The value of the soft spot isn’t gone when you first hold your baby in your arms. Far from making the baby more vulnerable, the soft spot protects a baby from injury. Although the spot is soft, it actually consists of a surprisingly tough fibrous membrane. True, it can make some rare accidents more dangerous (direct penetrating trauma to that spot), but for the common falls experienced by all babies, the soft spot cushions and protects — making the skull function rather like a football helmet.

Every week, frantic parents rush into my office after their babies have fallen off a bed, table, or highchair. It happens so quickly, babies can fall even with careful and attentive parents — it’s even happened to me, but don’t tell :^). When babies fall, they usually land head first, since their centers of gravity are in their heads (adults’ centers of gravity are in our bottoms). The head hits the floor with a terrible, ripe-melon-like “thwunk.” Thanks to the cushioning of the soft spot, most of these head injuries are minor.

At birth, babies’ soft spots come in a very wide range of sizes. If the anterior fontanel is small, it will usually enlarge over the first several months. Conversely, large ones tend to get smaller. By the time a baby is 2 months old, the anterior fontanel is usually about 1 x 1 1/2 inches. The anterior fontanel is usually the last fontanel to disappear. For most kids, the anterior fontanel closes not long after they get steady on their feet (at 9 to 18 months), but the timing varies widely. It stays open just long enough to protect them as they stumble their way toward walking on their own. How quickly it all goes!

Last medical review on: December 09, 2010
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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Recent Comments

Our new born baby’s soft spot isn’t bolwing up and down. Im worried about it. I want to know what is the problem.

My son is eight months old and I’ve noticed his soft spot is hard. Is it normal?

My son is 19 months old and his soft spot is still open and I don’t think it is closing, every time I feel it, it feels the same size. Should I be concern? I’m a new mother and can’t just let it go. It worries me so much it’s always on my mind. His doctor says that he is developing fine and that I should not be worry.

My some is 7 years old and still has a soft spot I can feel the bone at either side of the soft spot then there is a big dint in between is this normal ??

My babies 18 months but still now not closing soft spot on her head..it is danger…I m worried about her

My son is 19 months old and his spot in the front if the head is still open.. Should I be worried . His doctors it should be closed by now. What would be the reason for it to take longer to grow.is it lack of a vitamin

My grandson soft spot cannot be found out the front of his head by either the health visitor or the doctor. He is 3 months old. He has now been referred. Should I be worried.

Many thanks
Anxious mother

My son is 22 months and still has a large soft spot and it don’t seem to be getting any smaller

im glad my daughters not the only one she’s 2 in September an is still open was told some babies take longer sometimes up to 5 years

my baby is just two weeks now and has two soft spots on his head one on top of his head and at the back of his head,, should i worries or is it normal?

My baby’s still has a soft at 18 months. Should I be concerned?

My son is 10 months old and his dr voiced her concern that he still has a quite large soft spot for his age. Is there anything I can do to help shrink it, or something?

When I picked my 2 month old up I accidentally hit his head on the overhead chandelier type thing. How do I know if I hurt him or hit his soft spot?

My baby f, but it’s hard?

My baby fell of the bed and he is 8 months. Should I worry about his soft spot? It looks like popped up but it’s hard?

My daughter is 4 months almost 5 and her soft spot on top is closing already what is the severity of this and what is the final out come?

Should I be worried if my 8yr old has a soft spot that popped up out of nowhere