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Newborn Appearance: Head/Scalp

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A new baby's head can be misshapen, bruised and swollen after a vaginal delivery. Be prepared for some common head and scalp appearances in newborns will help ease worries. Here are some common variations that you may see in your new baby (don't worry, many of these resolve within a few weeks):

  • Your baby’s head may be misshapen after delivery due to overlapping skull bones which ease baby’s transition through the birth canal after birth. This is called molding.
  • Caput succedaneum is the swelling of the back of the scalp that may occur due to passage through the birth canal and tends to resolve in a couple of days.
  • Cephalhematoma is a collection of blood between the skull and the membrane that surrounds the skull (periosteum) and is a result of birth trauma. This “head bruise” may take up to 2 months to resolve completely. Babies with cephalhematomas may be at higher risk for newborn jaundice.
  • The “soft spots” on a baby’s head, called fontanel, are areas in the skull where bones are not fused together but held together by membranes. The posterior fontanel closes by 3 months of age. The anterior fontanel does not fully close until around 18 months of age.

Babies tend to loose their hair in the first couple weeks of life. This is a normal occurrence and is typically due to sleeping on their backs.

Davidson, D., London, M., Ladewig, P. (2012). Olds' Maternal-Newborn Nursing & Women's Health Across the Lifespan (9th Edition). Boston: Pearson.
Gleason, C. & Devaskar, S. (2012). Avery's Diseases of the Newborn (9th Edition). Philadelphia: Elsevier Saunders.

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