Head shape

Your baby’s head may flatten from sleeping on their back with their head in the same position.  

Babies should always sleep on their back, to prevent sudden unexpected death in infancy (SUDI).

Tips to reduce and prevent flattening 

Below are some ideas to reduce or prevent flattening of your baby’s head: 

  • vary the resting position of your baby’s head 
  • encourage them to turn their heads 
  • turn their head to a different side each time you put them to bed 
  • change the position of the cot, or move toys and posters, so they look around the room 
  • change which end of the cot that your baby’s head usually lies 
  • give your baby time lying on their tummy (tummy time) while they’re awake, with you watching them. 

Flattening doesn’t affect your baby’s growth or their brain development. However, if you are concerned about your baby’s head shape or size, talk to your Plunket nurse, or doctor. 

The fontanelles

What are they? 

When you run your hands along your baby’s head, you may notice ‘soft spots’ on top of their head where the skull bones haven’t joined yet. These are called fontanelles and allow babies’ heads to grow quickly 

The smaller fontanelle at the back of your baby’s head closes at about six to eight weeks, while the larger front fontanelle (on the top of the head) closes between nine and 18 months. 

Washing or touching the fontanelles won’t hurt your baby. You may see the front fontanelle going up and down at the same rate as the baby’s heartbeat – this is normal. 

When to visit a doctor 

It’s normal for the front fontanelle to look sunken or slightly raised, but you should see your doctor if: 

  • it’s bulging outwards when your baby isn't crying, or when you sit your baby up 
  • your baby isn’t drinking well 
  • your baby is having damp, but not wet nappies 
  • your baby is vomiting  
  • your baby has diarrhoea.