Discovering a lump on your baby’s head can be quite alarming to most parents. Interestingly, most such lumps are harmless.
Babies are born with soft and flexible skulls. This is a very important feature, for it allows the head to squeeze through birth canal at birth. In most cases, lumps on infant’s skulls have something to do with overlapped bones or soft spots on skull. Rarely will they be life-threatening.
It is always a good idea to have a lump on top or on the back of your baby’s head checked by a doctor. This is especially if it is accompanied by symptoms such as pain and fever.
Common causes of lump on baby head
A hematoma is a blood clot that forms under the skin. This mostly occurs when blood leaks from damaged blood vessels into surrounding tissues. Hematomas are common causes of a painful lump in the scrotum after a vasectomy. Cephalohematoma occurs in babies, between inner skin layers and the scalp. Trauma endured during labor and delivery is usually responsible for this condition. As the infant develops, the clotted blood will gradually be absorbed into the body.
Causes and risk factors
- Prolonged labor
- Use of forceps during delivery
- Infants with large heads
- First deliveries
Cephalohematoma doesn’t cause any ulceration. A lump on top of head where the injury has been sustained will occur. Other symptoms may include jaundice and anemia. Cephalohematoma doesn’t affect the brain.
If you notice a bulge on your baby’s scalp under the skin, have it checked by a doctor. CT scan images or MRIs may be required to confirm diagnosis. Small cephalohematomas resolve on their own, in about 3 weeks. Larger ones may require to be drained.
Caput succedaneum is swelling of an infant’s scalp. It is caused by pressure endured on the scalp during delivery.
As mentioned earlier, infants’ skulls are very soft. Squeezing through the birth canal may exert pressure enough to cause overlapping of cranium bones. When this happens, a lump will appear on top of baby’s head. Early rupturing of the amniotic sac is a common risk factor.
Caput succedaneum lumps appear shortly after delivery. You will notice a bit of puffiness, mostly on the part of the skull that came out first during delivery. An infant’s head can, for example, be slightly pointed but regains normal shape as the baby develops. This condition is not harmful and doesn’t affect the brain. In some cases, yellowing of the skin due to jaundice will occur.
Caput succedaneum is not harmful and doesn’t require treatment. It is however advisable to see your doctor, to confirm diagnosis. Medical attention should also be sought if symptoms of jaundice are to persist for more than 2 weeks.
Common causes of lump on back of baby’s head
Lymph nodes are perhaps the most common causes of a movable, pea-sized lump on the back of a baby’s head. They are harmless and in fact very important. Small injuries or trauma such as cradle cap may cause the lymph nodes to swell. See your doctor if the lump is painful or is accompanied by signs of infection such as fever.
External Occipital Protuberance
This is a bony lump that can be felt on back of the head at the base of skull. It is very normal and doesn’t require treatment.
Other causes of lump on baby head
Dermoid cysts form on suture lines of the skull. Their formation starts before birth when skin cells, glands and other materials get trapped in suture lines. The trapped skin cells will continue to divide, oil glands will secrete sebum and hairs will continue to grow. This results in formation of a lump that may continue to increase in size and mass. Dermoid cysts are usually not painful. Treatment is not always necessary. If need be, they can be surgically removed by your doctor.
A flat spot develops on one side of a baby’s head. It is mostly seen in babies with a tendency of sleeping on one side. Cranium bones harden and expand to allow for brain enlargement as a baby develops. Sleeping on one side may interfere with this process, such that a bulge tends to form on one side of the baby’s head. Parents and nurses are advised to train babies to sleep on both sides.
Babies are commonly born with 2 soft spots on the skull. One is located on top of head and the other one at the back of head. The former can be felt until an infant is more than 2 years old. The latter tends to disappear after the first 3 months of life. Touching these spots will not hurt your baby or affect the brain. The spots are however potential areas of weakness and should be protected from physical trauma.
Boils and abscesses
Boils originate from a hair follicle or an oil gland. They start as red bumps on skin. In about 5 days, boils fill with pus to form painful red lumps. Pus indicates presence of bacteria, a reason why boils are classified as infections. Large boils are known as abscess and are common causes of painful lump in armpit due to swollen lymph nodes. Antibiotics are mostly used for treatment. Boils can also be drained or treated with corticosteroids. Pain relievers are also commonly prescribed.
Insect bites and stings
Insect bites such as from mosquitoes can result in formation of a lump on the skin of a baby’s head. Compared to bites, stings such as from bees result in larger and more painful lumps. Insects are known to transmit diseases such as malaria.
Hemorrhagic disease of the new born is caused by deficiency of vitamin K in infants. It is a rare but dangerous condition that is characterized by excessive bleeding. Children with this disease gain weight slowly and tend to bleed insignificantly. A lump on a baby’s head and blood in the stool may also be noticed.
A hernia occurs when an internal structure pushes a weakened spot of the wall that covers it. It is a common cause of lumps above the genital area in male babies. Hernias are fairly rare on the head.
Is a lump on baby’s head a sign of cancer?
To most people, lumps and cancer are almost synonymous. It is however very unlikely that a lump on your baby’s head will be malignant, just as a pea sized lump in the scrotum is unlikely a sign of testicular cancer.
Most cases of cancer are reported in people past their teenage years. Most cancer lumps are painless, hard, firm and immovable. They also gradually increase both in mass and size. You can easily confuse a cystic lump with a cancerous one. See your doctor for diagnosis in such a case.
When to see a doctor
Most lumps on babies’ heads are not causes for concern. They will either resolve on their own or are consequences of normal developmental process.
See your doctor if a lump continues to increase in size or mass. Chances are very low that it will be cancerous however.
A normal lump on baby’s head should not hurt or at least not for more than 2 days. See your doctor if signs of infection are to show up. Even mild infections can prove life-threatening in babies.
If you can seem to find a probable cause of a lump on your baby’s head, check with your doctor. Some lumps call for MRIs and CT scans for identification.
Consider learning more on topics discussing the different types of lumps that can develop in the body or on skin. Simple diagnostic tools such as lump on a baby’s head images, lump in the palm of the hand pictures and so on may also prove helpful in one way or another. The good thing is that they are widely available on the internet today.