Head Shape (Infants)

Head Shape

The head shape of babies that are born vaginally can be affected by the delivery process. The newborn’s skull is made up of several separate bones that will eventually fuse together. This situation permits the large head of the infant to be squeezed through the narrow birth canal without injury to mother or baby.

Molding

The heads of infants born by vaginal delivery often show some degree of molding, which is when the skull bones shift and overlap, making the top of the infant’s head look long, stretched out, or even pointed at birth. This is temporary and usually goes away a few days after birth.

Head shape photos at Stanford School of Medicine

In addition to looking long, a newborn’s head may sometimes have a lump or two as a result of the trauma of delivery.

Caput Succedaneum

Caput Succedaneum is swelling of the scalp in a newborn. It is most often brought on by pressure from the uterus or vaginal wall during a head-first (vertex) delivery or during a long or difficult delivery. This is especially true after the membranes have ruptured, because the amniotic sac is no longer providing a protective cushion for the baby’s head. Vacuum extraction can also increase the chances of caput succedaneum. This will fade over a few days.

More information about swelling:

Medline Plus

Cephalohematoma

A cephalohematoma is a collection of blood that has seeped under the outer covering membrane of one of the skull bones. This is usually caused during birth by the pressure of the head against the mother’s pelvic bones. The lump is confined to one side of the top of the baby’s head and may take a week or two to disappear. The breakdown of the blood collected in a cephalohematoma may cause these infants to become somewhat more jaundiced than others during the first week of life.

It’s important to remember that both caput succedaneum and cephalohematoma occur due to trauma outside of the skull — they do not cause injury to the infant’s brain.

Fontanels

Because of the separation of your newborn’s skull bones, you’ll be able to feel (go ahead, you won’t harm anything) two fontanels, or soft spots, on the top of the head. The larger fontanel is diamond-shaped at the front of the head; the smaller fontanel is triangle-shaped at the back of the head.  You may notice that the fontanels bulge out when the infant cries or strains, or they seem to move up and down in time with the baby’s heartbeat. This is perfectly normal. The fontanels will eventually disappear as the skull bones close together — usually in about 12 to 18 months for the front fontanel and in about six months for the one in back.

For more information:

MayoClinic.com Infant and Toddler Health

Medline Plus

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