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Baby's head

Your baby’s head is very delicate and the way baby sleeps may affect the shape of it. There are ways to prevent flattening on your baby’s head.

The shape of your baby’s head

The back of your baby’s head may flatten from sleeping on their back with their head in the same position. But your baby needs to sleep on their back to reduce the risk of SUDI.

Here are some ideas to reduce or prevent flattening on one part of the head:

  • Vary the baby’s head position and 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 that they look around the room.

  • Change the end of the cot your baby’s head is at.

  • Give your baby time lying on their tummy while they’re awake, with you watching them.

Flattening doesn’t affect the growth and development of your baby’s brain. If you’re concerned about your baby’s head shape or size, talk to your midwife, Plunket nurse, or doctor.

The fontanelles

Fontanelles are ‘soft spots’ on the top of a baby’s head where the skull bones haven’t joined yet. Babies’ heads grow very quickly and the fontanelles allow this rapid growth. The smaller back fontanelle closes at about 6–8 weeks.

The larger front fontanelle on the top of the head gradually closes between 9 and 18 months.

Washing or touching the fontanelles won’t harm 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 see a doctor

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

  • It’s bulging outwards when your baby has stopped crying, or when you sit your baby up.

  • If your baby isn’t drinking well

  • Is having damp, but not really wet nappies

  • Has vomiting or diarrhea

The sunken fontanelle may be a late sign that they are dehydrated.  Your baby needs to see a Doctor urgently.

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