Have you ever drawn a face on a hard-boiled egg with a Sharpie? Maybe during a high-school health class project to care for egg babies?
If you haven’t, you should. Because 3D and 4D ultrasounds may give perfectly pictured expectations of what baby will look like to moms delivering vaginally, but in reality your “conehead baby” might look more like the egg.
In fact, your baby’s adorable, round head is about 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) larger than the diameter of your cervix during the final stages of labor. And there’s a good chance it won’t be so perfectly round after journeying through the birth canal.
Don’t panic. This will NOT be your baby’s head shape forevermore.
It’s completely normal for new babies to flaunt adorable, cone-shaped heads.
Seeing your baby for the first time generates several emotions at once: pride, relief, anxiety, and… wait, is that a birthmark? Why is their skin yellow? Is their head shape even normal?
At birth, all newborns have variable head shapes, but you can expect a vaginally delivered baby’s head to have a minor to majorly extended or pointed “cone shape.” It is, in fact, entirely normal.
The human body is incredible. To help your baby’s head fit through the tight and narrow birth canal, their skull has two large soft spots and malleable, bony plates that compress and overlap (a process known as “head molding”) as they descend through the cervix and vagina.
Babies born by cesarean delivery generally don’t display much of a conehead. Thanks to the rising number of cesareans (about
However, no matter whether you end up with a vaginal or cesarean delivery, if your baby “dropped” into your pelvis long before you delivered, they may have a more noticeable or extreme cone shape.
Your baby’s skull is meant to shift shapes at this stage of development, usually regaining a round appearance within 48 hours, although some may take a few weeks.
But don’t worry if your baby’s head stays conical for longer. In fact, the skull’s growth plates don’t fully close until adolescence, so no need to worry now.
If, however, the cone shape remains after a couple of weeks, or if you are worried at all, write up a list of your questions, toss it in your diaper bag, and discuss your concerns with your baby’s pediatrician during the next wellness checkup.
Your baby’s head should return to an adorable, round shape anywhere between 2 days and a few weeks after delivery. However, there are still other positional factors that can influence your baby’s head shape. These include:
- resting in the same position
- pressure on the back of the skull
- not alternating the direction your baby’s head faces when they are on their back
- distortions due to trauma or genetic anomalies
If your baby’s conehead is lasting longer than expected, there are steps you can take to help encourage head rounding. (But in the meantime, take a lot of pictures and embrace that conehead cuteness while you can.)
Make sure your baby doesn’t spend time on their back with the head in any one position for too long, as this could lead to plagiocephaly (flat side or back of head).
You can encourage different positions by placing them facing different directions throughout the day or moving mobiles or other toys around to different viewing positions.
You can also hold or wear your baby in a carrier often to eliminate and relieve any pressure on the back of their head. Use swings and baby seats to shift positions whenever they are awake. Alternate sides for each feeding.
Give your baby adequate supervised tummy time a few times every day. Tummy time is useful in helping your baby develop stronger neck and back muscles, giving them more control over their head so they can keep head pressure evenly distributed.
If you’re still concerned, speak with your baby’s pediatrician, who can suggest additional head rounding methods. Your pediatrician may even suggest physical therapy or a special helmet designed for head rounding.
If an odd-shaped lump appears on the top of your baby’s head within a few hours or days of delivery, this may be a sign of cephalohematoma. This simply means small blood vessels on the head of your baby are broken or trapped and collected between the skull and skin during birth. It’s not a serious issue, doesn’t affect baby’s brain, and it should go away on its own within a few months.
If your baby’s head begins to tilt downward, this may be a sign of torticollis. If this twist appears from birth, it’s called congenital muscular torticollis, but it can occur at any age, even into adulthood!
This happens when a large muscle that reaches from the head to the neck, is shortened, bending the head toward the shortened side and rotating the chin the opposite direction.
When torticollis happens at birth, your baby may have been in a cramped or breech position, causing the muscle to shorten. You may not notice this until your baby begins gaining some control of their neck muscles, at about 6 to 8 weeks post birth.
Your baby may struggle to breastfeed on a certain side, or prefer looking at you over one shoulder instead of turning their head to look you in the eyes. If you notice this, mention it to your pediatrician at your baby’s next wellness check, because early intervention can help prevent long-term complications.
Try to look at your conehead baby as the Hard Boiled Egg Medal of childbirth. Relax, take plenty of pictures, and enjoy these early memories with your adorable, conehead baby.