Interesting facts about the fontanelle and its functions

It feels a little strange: If you gently place your hand on an infant’s forehead and move up a bit, you can feel the hard skull suddenly become soft. A kind of hole opens up that pulsates in the rhythm of the heartbeat.

Many parents are fascinated by it and like to stroke this area known as the fontanelle. Others tend to be frightened and avoid this seemingly vulnerable area.

The fontalle is baby’s “crumple zone” for birth: the skull has not yet grown together properly so that the skull bones can move at birth to fit through the birth canal. Only three months after birth, the posterior fontanel closes and the others follow during the second year of life. But what happens if the fontanel has collapsed or is bulging or pulsating?

Despite the soft fontanel, your baby's head is well protected - but be careful with it.

What are fontanelles?

The soft spots on the head of a newborn where the cranial bones have not yet grown together are called fontanelles.

They are connected to a firm connective tissue to protect them from injury. A baby has six fontanelles at birth. Two of these bone gaps are located on the front sides of the skull, two on the rear sides. The small fontanel is located at the back of the head, the largest centrally on the skull. The latter has a lozenge shape of about two by two centimetres. Since it is best seen and felt, it is also the best known.

Here you can even clearly feel the pulsating blood of your baby and possibly even see a pulse beat. If the baby is lying down, the fontanelle is slightly arched.

What are the fontanelles good for?

When man learned to walk upright in the course of evolution, his pelvis became smaller at the same time. This also made it narrower for the birth of a baby.

The area of the baby’s head that is still open allows the skulls to squeeze each other (and sometimes even squeeze each other), the head to fit through the narrow birth canal, and to ensure rapid pressure balance immediately after birth.

Another important task of skull sutures and fontanelles is to enable the child’s brain, which rapidly increases in volume during the first months of life, to grow unhindered.

The baby’s thermoregulation system is fully developed. At this time, a lot of heat is passed through the head and the large fontanelles. At this time, more attention should be paid to the protection of the baby’s head.

If you go out, wear a thick wool hat, depending on the weather.

When does the Fontanelle close?

The smaller, rear Fontanelle usually closes after about three months, while the four side fontanelles only grow together later, in the course of the first 18 months of life.

The larger, front fontanelle often opens even further after birth and remains unchanged for some time. Gradually it will shrink and close during the second year of life.

During the preventive examinations, the fontanella is regularly checked by the pediatrician.

Fontanelle closed too early?

If the fontanelle has closed too early, the pediatrician will regularly check the development of the head during the preventive examinations and possibly perform ultrasound examinations of the head. Premature seam closure, medically pre-mature seam synostosis, is a slightly more frequent misdevelopment of the child – uneven skull growth is the result. In case of suspicion of premature seam closure, a hospital with a (children’s) neurosurgery should be visited as soon as possible for further clarification.

Depending on which fontanella have closed too early and depending on the time of time, the treatment is interdisciplinary. It may include pediatricians, orthodontists, oral, maxillofacial and maxillofacial surgeons, neurosurgeons and throat, nose and ear doctors. Surgery is considered the safest therapy.

Detecting warning signals

If your baby is healthy, the large Fontanelle pulsates easily. It has not fallen in or arched. If you notice that the Fontanelle has fallen extremely inward, this can be a sign of a lack of fluids. In such a case, you should consult a pediatrician.

If, on the other hand, it bulges strongly outwards or appears tense, increased pressure in the brain skull could be the cause, as well as fever or other diseases. Again, if you notice something unusual or are unsafe, you should see a doctor immediately. Or ask your aftercare midwife for advice.

How do I handle the Fontanelle correctly?

If you become a parent for the first time, you are very careful with your baby anyway and pack it in cotton wool.

The soft spots on the head are of course of particular fear for many parents. Although you should be very careful and careful with your baby’s head, you should not press it strongly and protect it from impacts.

However, as a parent, you don’t have to be too scared. The soft part of the baby’s head is covered with a layer of connective tissue, a protective film that protects the head, which makes the baby safer.

So caressing or gentle brushing is not only allowed, but certainly also desired in a normally developed newborn.


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