Cephalhaematomas can vary in size from being just noticeable, to the size of small chicken's egg (or larger), but more elongated. They usually feel quite soft and spongy. Parents can be a little embarrassed by this feature on their new baby and usually tire of comments from concerned friends and family asking "Are you sure it is OK?" These babies often have most of their baby photos taken with bonnets, beanies or hats on!
A lot of text books talk about cephalhaematomas disappearing in 6 to 9 weeks. This may be the case for small cephalhaematomas but it is our experience that larger ones can take up to 9 to 12 months to be absorbed. The longer they take to disappear, the more likely a small ridge of fine bone will form around the edges of the haematoma, (called 'ossification'). This is the body's way of naturally 'protecting' the area. Fine ossified ridges can sometimes be slightly detectable by running your finger over the baby's scalp after the swelling has subsided. In 10 to 20% of cephalhaematomas, the bone shape of the skull will be changed slightly due to this ossification. This will diminish and be normal by the time the child is 3 to 4 years old.
Occasionally the slow breaking down of the blood inside a cephalhaematoma will cause mild jaundice in a baby a few weeks after being born, this is normal and usually requires no treatment. Some parents will seek out treatments for their baby from cranial osteopaths experienced in dealing with newborn babies. Sometimes a treatment can help the swelling to subside more quickly. Check with your practitioner.
Sucking blisters on the wrist
You may notice a blister, or broken skin with a bruised look on one, or both, of your baby's hands or wrists. These are called 'sucking blisters' and are caused from the baby sucking on these areas while inside the uterus (having not discovered their thumb as yet!)