Need to talk? Call 1800 882 436.
It's a free call with a maternal child health nurse. *call charges may apply from your mobile

Is it an emergency? Dial 000
If you need urgent medical help, call triple zero immediately.

beginning of content

About the fontanelle

3-minute read

If you run your fingers gently over your newborn’s head, you may feel a couple of soft spots instead of bone. These soft spots, where your baby’s skull bones haven’t fused together, are called fontanelles. They are a part of normal development. However, changes in the fontanelle can sometimes indicate a health issue.

What are fontanelles?

Unlike adults, babies have skull bones that are not firmly joined together. The spaces between the skull bones are important as they allow the bones to move, and even overlap, when the baby passes through the birth canal. These spaces also allow room for the baby’s brain to grow.

You may notice one such space, or fontanelle, at the front on top of the head and another smaller fontanelle at the back of the head.

Over time, the fontanelles harden and close. The fontanelle at the back of your baby’s head usually closes by the time your baby is 2 months old. The fontanelle at the top usually closes sometime between the ages of 7 months and 18 months.

Observing the fontanelle

Some parents may feel anxious about touching the fontanelles. However, there is no need to worry or to avoid touching the fontanelles, as they are protected by a tough membrane or layer of tissue.

Changes or abnormalities in the fontanelles may provide clues about your baby’s development and health. This is why it’s normal for your baby’s doctor or nurse to examine your baby’s fontanelles during check-ups. For instance, delayed fontanelle closure or an enlarged fontanelle can be associated with a range of medical conditions.

Sunken fontanelle

When you touch the fontanelle, it should feel firm with a slight inward curve. Many parents will worry about the fontanelle being ‘sunken’ (drawn in) and that this is a sign of being dehydrated (does not have enough fluid in their body). However, while a sunken fontanelle can occur when your baby is severely dehydrated there are many other signs of dehydration that happen before a fontanelle becomes sunken, such as fewer wet nappies and being less alert and responsive, and usually dehydration occurs when the baby is not feeding well or losing fluid through vomiting or diarrhoea. See your doctor right away if your baby has any of these signs of dehydration.

Bulging fontanelle

Your baby’s fontanelle may bulge or look raised when they cry but return to flat or slightly curved in when your baby is not crying and is in a head-up position. This is not a cause for concern.

A bulging fontanelle that does not return to normal may be a sign of a serious condition, such as an infection or swelling in the brain. See your doctor immediately, especially if your baby has a fever or is unusually sleepy.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: December 2018

Back To Top

Need more information?

Newborn baby essentials

Find out some of the essentials for looking after your newborn. Find out when your baby will need to have health checkups and immunisations. There is also lots of information on nappies, giving your baby a bath and teeth development.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Dehydration and hot weather -

Dehydration is the loss of water and salts from the body. You are at particular risk of dehydration during hot weather.

Read more on myDr website

Sun protection for babies and kids

Babies and young children can easily get sunburnt, even on cooler or overcast days. A few simple steps can help you protect both yourself and your baby.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Post cardiac surgery discharge information - CHW | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

When your child is discharged from hospital you will be given nursing and medical discharge summaries

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Common worries and fears for parents

New parents often worry that they don't know what to do. However, there are practical ways to deal with the challenges so you can enjoy your baby more.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Meningitis in babies and children | Raising Children Network

Meningitis is an emergency. Symptoms include headache, sore neck and sensitivity to light. If you think your child has meningitis, go straight to hospital.

Read more on website

How to tell if your child is sick

Here is some helpful guidance on how to tell if your child is unwell, common symptoms and childhood illnesses and when you should seek further advice.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Recognising serious illness in children

Trusted advice on serious symptoms and illnesses in babies and children including high fevers, diabetes, meningitis, and when to seek professional advice.

Read more on Pregnancy, Birth & Baby website

Meningitis | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

The brain and spinal cord are surrounded by a lining called the meninges

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Hydrocephalus and Spina Bifida | Sydney Children's Hospitals Network

Many people living with Spina Bifida also have a condition called Hydrocephalus

Read more on Sydney Children's Hospitals Network website

Call us and speak to a Maternal Child Health Nurse for personal advice and guidance.

Need further advice or guidance from our maternal child health nurses?

This information is for your general information and use only and is not intended to be used as medical advice and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any medical condition, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes.

The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

Except as permitted under the Copyright Act 1968, this publication or any part of it may not be reproduced, altered, adapted, stored and/or distributed in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Healthdirect Australia.