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Soft Spot (Anterior Fontanel)

What is the soft spot?

The soft spot is a diamond-shaped area on the top of the head in newborns. This area is also called the anterior fontanel. The soft spot is located where 2 growth lines (suture lines) for the skull cross. Babies have a soft spot to allow the bone of the skull to expand as the brain grows rapidly. The soft spot normally becomes larger over the first 2 or 3 months of life and then gradually closes. It normally looks flat or slightly depressed. The soft spot should not look full or bulging. If it is bulging, it means that the brain is under some pressure and your child needs to be seen by your health care provider.

When should it close?

A soft spot is closed when the opening can no longer be felt. The soft spot commonly closes at 18 months of age, but it could close any time between the ages of 5 and 26 months.

If your child reaches 27 months of age and the soft spot is not closed, your child needs to be checked by your health care provider. A soft spot that closes before a child reaches 5 months of age is very rare. This is called premature closure of the fontanel and may also need to be checked by your health care provider.

What is a normal size for a soft spot?

Soon after birth, the soft spot is about 1 by 1 inch. It can get as large as 2 by 2 inches. If the area is larger than this, you should have your child checked by your health care provider.

Is it safe to touch the soft spot?

It is quite safe to touch the soft spot. The open space between the bones is covered by a tough fibrous membrane that protects the brain. You can wash your baby's hair and continue with normal activities without worrying about harming the soft spot.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD, author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by McKesson Provider Technologies.
Last modified: 2003-10-27
Last reviewed: 2006-03-02
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright 2006 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All Rights Reserved.
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