Babies often have a sunken soft spot on their head called the “sunken fontanelle.” This is an area on the head where the skull has not fully closed. Newborns will have these bones separate from one another so that the baby can be born.
The brain also grows rapidly during the first few months of pregnancy, which the fontanelle allows due to this separation.
Doctors will perform checkups on your baby and pay special attention to this sunken spot to ensure that the bones do form properly over time. It’s also important that the skull doesn’t close up too quickly, and that the fontanelle isn’t too sunken, which may be a cause for concern.
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Causes for a sunken soft spot
While a fontanelle is a normal process that the baby must undergo, if there is a dramatic sunken spot, this is a cause for concern. There are two main reasons why a fontanelle would be too sunken, and these include:
The mother may be perfectly healthy and hydrated, but a baby has much greater needs than an adult. Babies are susceptible to dehydration, and they require an immense amount of liquid while growing.
Due to their small size, a baby can be hydrated and dehydrated rather quickly.
Babies that have feeding issues or become ill can become dehydrated even further. There are a lot of signs as a parent you’ll want to look out for to ensure that dehydration doesn’t occur or cause an issue in your baby’s development:
- Sunken or depressed fontanelle
- Dry skin
- Fast breathing
- Dark or strong urine
- Sunken eyes
Dehydration will require a trip to your local emergency room. Babies that show serious signs of dehydration will require an intravenous tube to be inserted to rehydrate quickly. Mild symptoms may be remedied with more fluid intake, but a trip to your doctor is recommended to ensure that the baby returns to good health.
Infants will normally require more breastmilk or formula.
Malnutrition and dehydration are often tied together. Why? A mother’s milk or formula will provide both hydration and nutrition. If one is lacking, so is the other. Mothers that do feed their child properly can still have a baby that is malnourished, and this can be caused by:
- Digestion and absorption issues
- Food intolerances
- Failure to thrive
- Toxic megacolon
Naturally, lack of proper feeding can also lead to malnutrition, but this isn’t the only reason that malnutrition occurs.
When the body doesn’t have the nutrients it needs, you may notice that a baby soft sunken spot is more dramatic than before. Routine checkups with your pediatrician will provide you with peace of mind in knowing that your baby is happy and healthy.
Doctors will examine your child for malnutrition and dehydration during each exam.
Common tests order by a doctor
Ensuring your child is healthy requires numerous tests to be conducted. A fontanelle that is sunken will require a few common tests to be performed, including:
- Complete blood count: A test that will measure the red and white blood cells in the body. The components of these cells will also be examined for dehydration. Low blood cell counts can be signs of disease or serious medical issues.
- Urinalysis: Urine abnormalities will be examined and tested for by the doctor. A urinalysis will indicate dehydration.
- Metabolic panel: A comprehensive test that will assess how chemicals are broken down in the baby’s body. This will be used when malnutrition is an issue. This test will be able to determine, on a chemical level, what’s occurring inside of the body and how to best treat the child.
An intravenous line will be inserted in the event that the child is dehydrated or malnourished. The goal is to get the child back to proper health as quickly as possible by providing food and nutrients directly into the blood stream.
Once the issue is corrected, the child’s fontanelle will continue to heal properly, and the sunken look should disappear quickly.
Treatment for a sunken soft spot
Pediatricians will often allow the baby time to heal and determine if the fontanelle will heal on its own. If the doctor believes that medical intervention is the best course of action, the following will occur:
- Increase fluids: An increase in fluids will help hydrate the baby. This may require more frequent feedings and the removal of juices from the baby’s diet.
- Electrolyte replacements: A baby-specific electrolyte formula may be recommended. These replacements will add potassium and sugar to the body, and are meant for malnutrition. A baby that is dehydrated will not want to take an electrolyte replacement due to the sugar and salt content causing further dehydration.
A fontanelle is perfectly normal, and a lot of babies will experience a sunken soft spot on their head. Immediate medical attention is needed at this time, and when a parent seeks medical advice quickly, the baby will be able to grow properly without lasting effects.