The new found sense of responsibility that comes with parenthood can be slightly overwhelming as you suddenly realise that you are responsible for a new little human! This, alongside the around-the-clock feedings and lack of sleep, means that you are extra vigilant of ANYTHING that seems out of the ordinary. When it comes to your new-born’s head, there are a few things you may be unsure of, but more often than not they’re nothing to worry about and are normal things that you simply didn’t expect.
Here’s a list of features about your new-born’s head that are actually normal, alongside the time frame that you can expect these to clear up and when to start to worry if they do not settle as you’d expect.
1. Flaking Scalp Skin
Also known as Cradle Cap, it’s common for new-borns to have a flaky, crusty or greasy ‘dandruff’ scalp for the first few months. These are just skin cells that are flaking away and the cause of this is still unknown but it is thought to run in families. Don’t attempt to pick the ‘scales’ of, instead, try massaging the baby’s head with olive oil then comb the baby’s hair gently and wash it. Alternatively, it’s fine to leave it and let it go away on its own!
When to worry: If the dry rash spreads beyond the baby’s scalp or seems to be growing more severe or is inflamed, ask your doctor about getting a prescription ointment.
2. Red Patches on Forehead and Scalp
If you notice red blotchy patches on your baby’s forehead, scalp, and the back of their neck – don’t worry! These are also known as salmon patches or stork marks and are normal on a new-born baby. They aren’t permanent, but may get slightly darker when your baby cries. These usually fade within a year!
3. Oddly Shaped Heads
As well as being painful for the mother, birth does strange things to a baby’s head. The bones that make up a baby’s skull are not fully fused together at birth, allowing a baby to fit through the birth canal. This can result in a baby having a slightly pointy or misshapen head shape after birth, this is known as birth moulding and is perfectly normal and tends to correct itself during their first few weeks.
As babies’ heads are so soft and malleable, babies can also develop a flattened area as a result of consistent pressure to certain areas of their head. This is known as flat head syndrome and is usually in the form of plagiocephaly. Don’t be alarmed though; this is usually a result of babies spending most of their time with weight and gravity acting on one part of the head. If you notice your little one having a tendency to lean on one side, try encouraging ‘tummy time’ and repositioning techniques (check out our Repositioning Guide for more information). You could also read our blog on How to Identify Plagiocephaly if you have any questions.
When to worry: If you’ve tried repositioning your baby and the flat areas have not disappeared within a month, we recommend that you seek advice from one of our clinicians. They will be more than happy to offer advice and it might be that the flattening can only be corrected with a pain-free helmet treatment. Helmets are most effective if worn as early as 4 months, so don’t wait too long to speak up if you feel something is wrong.
4. Soft Spot on Top of Baby’s Head
Soft spots, also known as Fontanelles, allow your baby’s head to remain flexible for safe passage through the birth canal. These soft spots are gaps between the bones in your baby’s head that stay open after birth to allow for growth. These can be alarming to parents, but rest assured, these are perfectly normal and necessary. Your baby’s soft spots are protected by a strong fibrous membrane that protects your baby’s brain. As distressing as it may be to see a pulse beating beneath the skin, it is perfectly normal! Check out our recent blog post for more information on soft spots on your baby’s head.
When to worry: If the fontanelle is sunken and your baby isn’t feeding, this is a sign of dehydration and you should contact your GP immediately.
5. Crossed Eyes
Your baby can appear to have crossed eyed in the first few weeks and months as you little one’s eyes are still trying to gain muscle control and learn how to focus. So give it time for the eyes to do their job and adapt to their new senses. There are also some cases where you may think that your baby appears to have crossed eyes, when in fact they don’t. This is due to the broad bridge of their nose, as extra skin folds can mask some of the white parts of the baby’s eye, thus creating the optical illusion called pseudoesotropia. If your baby’s pupils actually line up and move together, it is usually all OK (blame the lack of sleep!).
When to worry: Typically, your baby should start to focus and move their eyes by about 5 months of age. If your baby is still showing signs of crossed or wandering eyes by 6 months you should book an appointment to see if there is something else underlying. If your baby’s eyes are chronically wandering and not focusing, this could be a sign of Strabismus; if just one eye is wandering it may be amblyopia or a lazy eye.
It’s natural to worry about your baby – you wouldn’t be doing your job properly if you didn’t. However, don’t let your worries get in the way of you enjoying these precious moments with your new-born. Often, looking at the bigger picture puts things into perspective, if your baby looks happy and is feeding well then they are unlikely to be suffering from the dreadful scenario you’ve concocted in your head!
Normally most things will clear up within a few months but if you have any concerns and want to put your mind at rest do not hesitate to get in touch!