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Bumps, ridges, and soft spots on a baby’s head. When should you worry?

Parents often worry about lumps and bumps on a baby’s head. Babies normally have bumps, ridges and soft spots on their head. When should you worry?

Parents often worry about lumps and bumps on a baby’s head unnecessarily. Babies normally have ridges and soft spots on their head for a while after birth. Many have a type of swollen gland that parents can feel when rubbing the head. All of this is normal.

Skull anatomy

Let’s begin with a brief overview of a baby’s head. We are born with many bones in our skull. This allows the head to be squeezed out of the birth canal as the bony plates move together or even overlap one another.

Infant skull bones
Infant skull bones

Sometimes you don’t really notice much with these bones, but other times they overlap one another noticeably after birth. When a baby has a lot of head distortion due to overlapping of skull bones, we call it molding. It can make the head look pointed – which is often called cone head.  It can also make the head look flat on one side.

The good news? Even really odd looking heads are usually normal. Molding tends to resolve without intervention over the first few days of life.

Soft spots

There are 1-2 “soft spots” at birth. Usually the one on top to the head (the anterior fontanelle) remains open enough to feel for the first 18-24 months of life. The one towards the back of the head (the posterior fontanelle) is unable to be felt by about 2 months of age. It is often so small at birth that it’s not recognized.

Many parents fear that touching a soft spot will somehow damage the baby’s brain. Normal touching won’t hurt, even from a 2 year old sibling. There are several layers of skin and other tissues protecting the brain.

Doctors will feel the soft spots during routine check ups to be sure they are the right size for the growth of the baby’s head. There’s a lot of variation here, so if you question the size of your baby’s soft spot, discuss it at a visit with the doctor. He or she will need to not only feel the soft spot, but also will look at overall head growth, baby’s development, and the shape of the head.

Bruises and bleeding

Coming out of the birth canal can be traumatic for both mother and baby (and often for fathers too). Sometimes babies have a big soft or squishy bump on one side of the head, which usually is essentially a large bruise.

Bruises can cause yellow jaundice.

Any bruise can increase the risk of yellow jaundice in a newborn, so your doctor might watch your baby more carefully for this over the time that the blood is resorbed. This is because yellow jaundice is caused by breakdown of blood cells. Most babies show yellow color in their eyes and face. Even if it progresses to their chest and abdomen it can usually self-resolve with proper hydration, but it should be monitored. If the level gets too high it can be managed. Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned.

Cephalohematoma vs caput saccedaneum.

The two most common types of bruising are cephalohematoma and caput saccedaneum.

A cephalohematoma develops when there is bleeding between the skull and the bone lining called periosteum. Since it is outside the skull, it doesn’t affect the baby’s brain. It covers only one of the bones, and never crosses one of the suture lines.

Caput succedaneum is swelling of the scalp in a newborn. It develops from bleeding one layer above the periosteum in the skin. It can cross the bone areas since it’s not limited by the lining of the bone (periosteum). You will notice a soft, puffy swelling on the baby’s scalp, usually in the area that first came out during birth. Some will show bruising.

Both of these conditions can lead to increased risk of yellow jaundice due to breakdown of the blood collections, but usually self resolve without complications. If baby seems uncomfortable due to this area, discuss with your hospital nurse or doctor.

The picture below attempts to show the layers of bleeding described here and includes more uncommon (and more concerning) types of bleeding. Babies who have deeper bleeds need proper medical management. For information about subgaleal hematoma, see Seattle Children‘s website. Epidural hematomas are very rare in newborns.

Scalp hematomas

 

Flat spots

Flat spots are common, especially if babies prefer to always look to one side. This can cause the forehead to seem to bulge on one side or an ear to appear closer to the face than the other ear. This is usually due to baby laying one direction most of the time, allowing the brain to grow all directions but spot baby is laying on.

Babies always need to sleep on their back until they start to roll on their own, but this can encourage a flat head. It’s important to get baby to lay looking right sometimes, left other times. Supervised tummy time is helpful too. I recommend starting tummy time on day one. The earlier you start tummy time the less they seem to hate it!

When you hold and feed baby, alternate arms because they will look toward you and by simply holding in the right arm sometimes, left arm other times, they will turn their head. If your baby resists turning his head, check out this Torticollis information.

Lymph nodes

One of the most common head worries that brings parents to the office is a pea-sized (or bigger) movable bump on the back of baby’s (or even an older child’s) head. This is usually an occipital lymph node.

Lymph nodes of the head and neck
Lymph nodes of the head and neck

When I say it’s just a lymph node, some parents automatically worry about lymphoma.

Don’t go there.

Most of us remember having a swollen lymph node (AKA swollen gland) under our jaw or in our neck when we are sick. When they develop on the back of the head, it is usually from something irritating the scalp, like a scalp probe during labor, cradle cap, or bug bites in older kids. They can remain large for quite a while (often seeming to come and go when kids have scalp irritations), but unless they hurt to touch, enlarge rapidly, are red and hot, or a child looks sick otherwise, I don’t worry about them.

TL:DR

In short, most lumps and bumps on your baby’s head are normal. If you’re worried, bring your baby in to have your pediatrician look and feel.

Bumps, ridges, and soft spots on a baby's head is often normal - but when should you worry?
Bumps, ridges, and soft spots on a baby’s head is often normal – but when should you worry?

By DrStuppy

I am a pediatrician and mother of two teens. I have a passion for sharing health related information.

115 replies on “Bumps, ridges, and soft spots on a baby’s head. When should you worry?”

Hi !
My baby fell of the bed a tall bed when she was 10 months old , i had the like little gate ting that goes on the side of the bed but some how she rolled down to the feet of the bed , I felt awful I know we should not sleep with babys on the bed but I had pillows to protect her but again it was just a little nap ( bad idea ) so she fell down and she is now 19 months and the bump on her head is not going away doctor has checked her every time I take her I ask if she looks fine and she says yes not to worry it will go away but it’s been a long time since that happened should I just take her to to a scan or just with what the doctor said she also said it could take a year for it to go away

It sounds like your baby’s doctor has already checked this out and things are okay. I cannot offer more without seeing your baby, but I will say that it can take several months for cephalohematomas to resolve.

Hi. My grandson has developed a lump on the right side of his head. It’s making me worried because it just appeared on it and it’s been three days since it appeared. Do I get it examined by a pediatrician

Hi My 11month old son fell while walking around inside and hit the side of his head on our floor boards. Now he has a big,soft squishy lump just above his ear. Should I be worried?

Hello! I am worried of the lump in my son’s head. It is a soft lump at the right part of head that makes his head not totally round and that part is bit higher than the other part of his head. Everything in him is normal only the lump I am worried. He is now 6 days old.

Congratulations on your new baby!

Their heads often are misshapen from birth, but at this age they typically get seen often, so ask his pediatrician at the next visit. If there are any concerns with the way he is feeding or acting you should call his physician sooner.

Hi. A few days ago I fell down 6 steps with my two-month-old in my arms. My leg slipping out from under me and I went down them on my back. I don’t believe his head hit a step, but I did bring my hand quickly to his head and he now has a squishy lump. We called the doctor and they said as long as he’s acting normally just keep an eye on it, but I am concerned it’s a fracture. I know you can’t give out medical advice, but do you think I should insist on having someone physically see him? We did a video conference the day after and they thought he was born with it. Thank you.

Boy, that brings back memories! I fell down the stairs carrying my (then) 18 month old daughter. I broke my ankle and didn’t get to check her out. She was sent to the neighbor’s house when I was taken by ambulance to the hospital – my husband was on a business trip and I couldn’t drive. It wasn’t until after surgery for my broken ankle that I realized no one checked her. I felt awful! She was fine.

If your baby has a squishy part on the head it is possible that it was from delivery at that age. If the doctor noted it in earlier exams, that would be reassuring. Newborns often have these and they slowly resolve without problems. If your baby did hit his head and this is new, that is slightly different, but I’m glad your doctor was able to talk to you and see a limited version of it by video. If your baby is eating, sleeping, and acting normally, that is very reassuring. If you’re still concerned though, you should call the doctor with an update and voice your concerns. I cannot really say anything without seeing your baby.

Thank you for your reply! We ended up going in for a physical appointment and everything seems to be okay. Thanks again for your help.

Hi Dr Stubby,

Thanks so much for sharing this! My son is two and I have realised a large hard lump in the centre of his head, leading towards his forehead. It’s been there for a while now and feels like part of the skull rather than a moveable lump. Due to Coronavirus it’s hard for me to see a paediatrician, so thought I’d see your opinion first. He is fit and healthy and progressing well except for being very small for his age.

Thanks in advance!

Many pediatricians are offering telemedicine visits, so you can reach out to your pediatrician to see if they can see him. I cannot give any specific advice through this site.

My 19 month old daughter has the exact same thing Cecilia described. A hard lump, middle of the head, toward the front. It feels like skull, not a soft lump. No recent injuries or illnesses. At night she soothes herself by banging her head on her crib, so I’m wondering if it could be from doing that repeatedly? She is completely developmentally normal, healthy, smart. I don’t see any neuro issues. I also can’t get into a pediatrician easily right now due to Covid-19. Can head banging cause a hard lump on the head?

Did you find out what it is? My 12-month old daughter has the exact same thing. We are scheduled to see a Craniofacial doctor but our appointment is still a month from now. I would like to know what it’s likely to be because I’m getting a bit worried.

Look up metopic stenostosis. I think that’s how it’s spelled! My son has the same thing I was a little concerned but I believe this is what it is and it doesn’t seem to be anything to worry about.

Hi Doctor I have a 5 month old who has a very faint line from front eyebrow to top of forehead I am making an appt to see pediatrician do you have suggestion?

I think seeing your pediatrician is a good idea. Right now it may be by telemedicine due to infection concerns, but it will take visualization to be able to have a discussion about it.

Hi Doctor, so my 9 month old baby has been wearing the cranial molding helmet for a week now because she has plagiocephaly. However, I noticed a prominent ridge on the side of her head right on top of her ear. It’s like a fine inverted deep line going from the side of her head to the top of her head. It wasn’t noticeable like this before and I’ve never felt it. I figured it was her suture line bulging out. Why is that, is it normal? And will it go away on its own? I cannot feel it on the opposite side of her head.

I am hoping you can help me / give me some advice.

My daughter is coming up 4 months, she has had moveable lumps on the back of her head since she was born, I asked about them at her 6-8 week check and the doctor said ‘Lymph nodes’ ( they are positioned where the occipital ones are on the diagram ) – I was worried again so booked another appointment at the GP. They said they wasn’t concerned, since then… one seems to have got ever so slightly bigger- but I am doubting myself is it my mind playing tricks?

She has very slight cradle cap and I can see she’s showing signs of teething! Could this affect it?

What else could it be? She’s well in herself, such a happy baby! Thank you. (I’ll also be calling doctor, but would lie meantime advice)

I’m glad you were calling her doctor – that’s the best place to find specific information. I wrote this post because I’m asked so often about bumps in the back of baby’s heads. It’s very common, but good to have your baby’s doctor see/feel and discuss them with you.

Doctor my baby has a swollen part at both side of d head .looking like a love shape and he is just 3 weeks old now .please what can i do about it .

Hey Doctor, I am a first time mom of a 2 month old. She just recently developed a lump or small bump close to the front fontanelle, should I be concerned?

This is a great question to ask her pediatrician, so they can take a look at it if deemed necessary based on further information. Give them a call during normal business hours unless there are other worrisome symptoms.

My one month old baby ‘s head pressed hardly by my husban’s hand by mistakenly after she jus cried till I hold her up.. Then she is perfectly OK I should worry about??

My baby is 4 weeks old and still has moulding. He is unable to lie flat on his head looking up when on back and has to face a side due to cone shape head. His airway appears restricted when I try to straighten it. Should the moulding and cone shape not have sorted itself out by now?

Talk to your pediatrician about your baby’s head shape if you’re concerned. Without seeing it and feeling the sutures of the skull bones as well as moving your baby’s neck it is hard to say what is going on.

My son had what looks like a bump in the middle of his forehead, to touch you can’t feel anything but you can see clearly it with certain expressions he makes. It’s almost like a mark underneath his skin, can you shed any light on this he is now 5 months and doesn’t seem to have got better or worse.

My son has had a bump on the back of his head for a while (he’s now 6 months). It doesn’t move…it’s almost like it’s his skull sticking out. His ped is not worried about it but I got an xray just in case and it came back normal. Its changed. Now he has this protrusion on both sides of the back of his head and therefore now has a strangely shaped head! Pediatrician is still not concerned but I want to see a specialist to ease my mind. Who do I see? A neuro? Neurosurgeon?

I just found a few bumps on the back of my baby’s head… I did refuse the Vitamin K shot…. He has an appointment on Tuesday, so I will be asking.. 🙁

Omg it’s so dangerous to refuse the vitamin k shot.. I would take him in right away. That’s not fair to him at all if your refusal causes him issues

My baby has a mild diagnosis of laryngomalacia so I feed him lying on his right hand side which allows him great control. I often stroke the back of his head of cup his head and last night noticed a very small (less than pea size) swelling just under his crown. When he’s upright or on left hand side I can’t find it- only in the right handed laying position.
Would you be concerned? He has a pediatrician appointment next week but I wonder if I should get something more urgent? So worried.

Unless your baby has other symptoms (poor feeding, fever, fussiness, etc) a bump alone can wait a week or two before getting checked. If you do have other symptoms, check in with your pediatrician sooner.

My daughter is now 5. She’s has had a hard bony like knot on the top of her head closer toward the middle. I noticed it when she was 2 that she had the lump. She has never complained about it, but I was just curious as to what I could possibly be. Any ideas?

thanks a lot. I had notices small movable lumps on number8. both sides. showed doctor said normal..Again today I noticed a small (less then a pea) movable lump on number 4 of left side.No any symptoms. However your article helped

Thank you for addressing this! I’ve noticed a small lump on both sides of the back ofmy sons head and was about to call his pediatrician for an appointment before his next 2 mo well baby, but I’m reassured now and will wait until his regular appointment to speak with her.

We saw a lump on my daughter front head when she was two weeks old n now she is 2 months plus is there any thing to b worried about ?the left side is a litle bit swollen than the right side of her from score or head

I can’t say if any specific lump is normaml or not. Talk to her doctor about it at your next visit and schedule specifically for it if you’re worried, especially if she has other symptoms with it.

I don’t know the answer to this, but generally most overlapping gets better quickly. If it is getting worse or you notice the ridge after the first month or so, show your pediatrician.

I noticed my baby swells in the middle of the two eye blow (should I call it nasal bridge) am not sure how they call it but whenever she cries it swells as if there’s much meat there and it happened from birth,she’s now 3 years old but still happens is that normal????

That is a question that is best answered by her doctor. Since it’s been there all her life, it is fine to wait until her next appointment unless it is getting worse. Make a note to bring it up at her next well child check!

My child has been to the e.r, she has been seen by her pediatrician and has another appointment this friday. Its been about a month or so since i first noticed it, she has a solid disfigured lump on the back of her head that isnt moveable, as if it is a part of her skull. It appears that it has gotten much bigger since i first noticed it. She has another lump too, but this one you can kinda move around where as the other one you cant. I feel like 6 months is too long to wait to find out if she has something other then a swollen lymph node. I dont know what im asking exactly, i just want peace of mind and for these bumps to go away.

It sounds like at least two physicians have already seen this and you’re doing a good job of being your child’s advocate. If you’re worried, you should bring it up again. If you get reassurance from multiple physicians, it is more likely something that you can continue to monitor. Without seeing your baby, I can’t offer any specific advice, but I’m glad you’re advocating for your baby!

My son has like a thin long dent on the side of his head and it worrys me what can it be ? He has his soft spotvat the top of his head this is something diffrent.

Hi I just discovered the lumps at around #8 as well. Was worried until I read this. But the lumps are on only on the right side and it’s 3. Is that normal? He doesn’t react when I press on them though, he’s 7months.

If there aren’t other concerns, just show your doc the next time you’re in the office. If you’re worried, call your doctor’s office to discuss your concerns and see if you should have them checked out.

Hi, thanks for this very useful blogs especially for us moms. I just gave birth last 26th Dec, and I found a very soft noticeable spot on the right part of my baby’s head, seems like it has water in it. I am very worried and scared, and tried to search online for some explanation and getting ready myself for our visit on Doctor tomorrow, I hope everything will be fine. In Gods name, amen.

We all can get what my mom called “swollen glands” when we’re sick. The number doesn’t matter as much as all the symptoms. If he has a lot of pain or rapid swelling of the area, he should be seen. Any of the illness symptoms that concern you should be assessed, such as difficulty breathing or not drinking enough. You can always contact your doctor if you’re concerned. If you don’t have a doctor, call a nurse advice line.

Thank you for this. I just found a small bump around #8 on my 14 month old daughter. It seems just to appear suddenly. She recently had a bad cold and still has. I can’t be sure if runny nose is the cold or a “symptom” of some sort. It moves around and it doesn’t seem to bother her warn I push on it. How long until these bumps go away on there own?

Lymph nodes can remain for months, sometimes people will feel them for years. I always suggest showing them to your child’s doctor at her next routine visit and sooner if there are other concerns, such as fever, pain, increasing size, or just that parent’s intuition and worry!

Hi!! My 3 month old just had a CT scan to rule out craniosynostosis and my pediatrician said it came back clear. But she has a ridge on her Sagittal suture and protruding forehead. How easy is it to see a Sagittal suture on a CT scan? And are ridges common still at 3 months?

Hi! My 1yr old son has a ridge from his head down to his forehead. I noticed it since he was 4mos old i think. At first his pediatrician order to do CT but i was terrified and cried infront of him and he came back in a few mins and change his mind he said that lets monitor until 6mos and so after that he just required him to have a helmet beacuse of his flat spot and never do CT because his head size is normal. But until now he still has the ridge i cant help but worry everyday because i think its getting noticeable evrytime i look at him.. any advice? Thank you

I would recommend you take your child to a chiropractor who adjusts babies. My son has a ridge in that area also and since I’ve been taking him to the chiropractor for 2 months now it’s going down. He is 3 months now.

I suspect it would be resolving in this same time frame without chiropractic manipulation. That’s a waste of money. It’s like saying a child is bigger at 3 months than he was at 2 months because you’ve taken him to a chiropractor. No. He’s bigger because he’s getting older and that’s what happens.

My son has staggial cranio CT is best option to diagnose cranio you can have ridges with sutures open hope this helps

How did you make out? My 10 day old has a ridge in the same spot the pediatrician is watching it closely and will do x Ray’s if needed

Thank you! I have made an appointment with our GP in 2 days, but reading this and knowing bubs has no showing symptoms has made me comfortable in my decision not to rush her to the ED.

This helped so much. My 1 and a half month old daughter has 2 lumps around #8 on both sides, right and left. But after reading, I feel safe enough to wait until her next routinely check up to ask her pediatrician!

My 10 month old daughter has a lump on the #8. Should I take her to the ER? It seems to bug her when I touch it & it kinda moves & she has a runny nose as well.

oh my gosh my infant has 2 lumps on the occipital areeea. i am worried so much despite that we are financially unable to go see his doctor

If you’re worried, bring it up the next time you’re at the doctor’s office. If your baby has other concerning sympotoms or you are worrying a lot, schedule a visit soon to discuss it.

Just wondering if you can clarify a what point would you expect to not be able to feel the sutures ridges?
My baby is almost 10 weeks old, delivered by planned c-section though I feel he was engaged for a week at least prior to this. The sutures at the front and rear of his head are still very noticeable. His head circumference percentile dropped a band between birth and his 6 week check up (not sure if that is normal or not).
I don’t know if I just need to give it more time or make an appointment with my Dr sooner than his 4 month check.

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