The soft spot, otherwise known as the anterior fontanel, is the space between the bones in an infant’s skull where fibrous materials (sutures) intersect. Sutures allow the bones in the skull to move, which in turn enables an infant’s brain to grow. The anterior fontanel is covered by a tough membrane, so simply touching the “soft spot” will not hurt your infant’s head or endanger your baby in any way.
You may have noticed that pediatricians always touch an infant’s “soft spot” when we examine the baby. The “feel” of an anterior fontanel can provide important diagnostic clues. For instance, a “flattened” anterior fontanel can signal dehydration. On the contrary, if the anterior fontanel feels full or “bulging,” that can signify increased intracranial pressure in the brain. We also like to make sure that the anterior fontanel feels “open” and that the sutures have not closed prematurely. The term for premature closure of the sutures is craniosynostosis, and it can lead to an abnormal head shape and impaired brain growth. Children with this condition need to be followed closely by a neurosurgeon.
The anterior fontanel usually closes by 12 months of age. Believe it or not, there is actually another “soft spot” on the back of your infant’s head, and this fontanel is called the posterior fontanel. The posterior fontanel usually closes by 4-6 months of age.
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