What to Do If Your Baby Bumps Their Head

baby bumped head

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You’re carrying your baby around the house, doing this and that. As you turn a corner, your baby knocks their head against a swinging door. Or your four-month-old infant has just started to roll, and before you know it, they’ve rolled right into the leg of your coffee table, bumping their head. Or your newly-crawling little one takes off one morning and crawls head-first right into a wall.

These sorts of scenarios are all very common—we’ve all been there! Yet anytime a wee one bumps their head, it’s common for parents to panic, at least a little. After all, sometimes these bumps and bruises can look rather alarming, and it’s easy to worry that someone as small and fragile as a baby would be more susceptible to serious injury.

Thankfully, most head injuries in babies are not worrisome—nothing a kiss can’t take care of. Still, in some cases, there is reason to be concerned when a baby bumps their head, especially if the impact of the bump was strong or if they are showing signs of serious injuries.

How Babies Get Bumps on Their Heads

Most babies will get a bump on their head at least once in their first year of life. This is partly because babies can’t control their head movement as well as adults because their neck muscles are less developed. Unlike grown-ups, their center of gravity is closer to their heads than their torsos.

Add to all that is the fact that babies are learning all kinds of new skills, like grabbing, rolling, walking, and sitting. With all of this new and exciting exploration, they are bound to have mishaps along the way.

There are many scenarios where a baby might end up bumping their head. The most common causes of these bumps are also usually the least concerning in terms of injury.

Most Common Causes of Bumps

  • Falls from beds and changing tables
  • Injuries from rolling, crawling, scooting, and walking

Less Common Causes of Bumps

  • Vehicle and bike accidents
  • Injuries from malfunctioning baby equipment, such as a baby seat or stroller that topples over
  • Child abuse (parental inflicted bumps or “shaken baby syndrome”)

External head injuries involve the scalp. Internal head injuries involve the blood vessels, skull, or brain.

Symptoms of Head Bumps

About 90% of childhood head injuries are considered minor, and at-home treatment is usually all that’s needed. Here are some of the things that might happen after a minor bump:

Crying

When your baby bumps their head, the first thing that usually happens is that your baby cries. This is a normal reaction to when something surprising, uncomfortable, and possibly painful happens to them.

Withdrawing

After crying, they might spend 15 to 30 minutes seeming a little extra quiet or withdrawn. This is also a normal reaction to a minor injury. Children sense the emotions of their parents and caregivers. If you remain calm after an accident, your child is likely to feel more secure.

Reddening or Bruising

The area of skin where the bump occurred can turn reddish or purple. This occurs because as the skin and the tissue beneath it is damaged, the blood vessels in that area may start to leak, giving the skin a bruised appearance.

Bleeding

Don’t panic if you see some blood. Even small cuts can produce a surprising amount of blood in a baby. This is because there are many blood vessels near the surface of the skin on the scalp. If you are able to stop the bleeding with gentle pressure, there is nothing to be concerned about.

Goose Eggs

Within a few minutes or hours, you may see a “goose egg” start to form where the bump happened. These can get rather large, but they are usually nothing to concerned about, as long as your baby is otherwise well.

Headache

Around half of children with a head injury will experience a headache after some type of head injury. Some children will feel a dull ache, and for others, headache pain feels more like pounding or throbbing. Headaches can be constant or come and go. Treatment depends on the underlying cause of headache pain.

Vomiting

Many children will vomit once or twice after a head injury. Watch your child for excessive vomiting and dehydration if this symptom persists. Always mention vomiting after a bump on the head to your child's healthcare provider.

Warning Signs of Serious Injury

Of course, a baby can't tell you that they have a headache or where it is (other than crying about it). So can you tell if your baby’s head bump is something more serious?

Excessive Bleeding

If you are not able to stop the bleeding from the bump with by applying a few minutes of pressure, or if the injury is causing bleeding from other parts of the body, you are likely dealing with a more serious injury. If you see a large or wide break in the skin, your child might need stitches.

High-Impact Falls or Accidents

If your child took a very high-impact fall or was injured in a serious accident, it is likely that they will need medical attention right away.

More Than Just a Head Bump

If other parts of your child’s body are affected, especially the neck or spine, you are likely dealing with a more serious injury. Never move a child with a suspected spinal injury.

Change in Behavior

If your baby remains more fussy than usual, if they are refusing food, vomiting excessively, seem less coordinated, or if they continue to seem lethargic or just not themselves hours after the bump, these are causes for concern.

Unresponsive or Passed Out

Anytime your baby passes out or loses consciousness, it is an emergency. Seek immediate medical attention.

What to Do If Your Baby Bumps Their Head

If your baby has experienced a minor bump to their head, cries right after the fact, and is easily consoled after a few minutes, the best thing you can do is try not to panic.

Even little ones can pick up on parental anxiety, and this can usually only make the situation worse. Not only that, but you will not be able to think rationally about how to handle the situation.

Besides cuddles and kisses, there are a couple of simple, at-home measures you can take to make your baby feel a little better, and prevent any complications from the bump.

  • Apply gentle pressure to any bleeding
  • If there is a cut, wash it with soap and water and apply an antibacterial ointment
  • Apply an ice pack right away on the bump to ease any swelling (don't apply ice directly to baby's skin; place a towel or cloth diaper between the ice and the injured area)

After these comfort measures are applied, you can begin a period of observation. Usually doctors recommend paying extra attention to your baby’s behavior over the next 24 to 48 hours. Look for signs of concussion or serious injury, including vomiting, lack of coordination, confusion, extreme fussiness, excessive fatigue, or unresponsiveness.

When to See a Doctor

If your baby loses consciousness, has bleeding that won’t stop, or shows signs of serious bodily injury after a head bump, you shouldn’t wait to call your doctor—take your baby to the emergency room right away.

Even with less serious bumps, most experts recommend calling your child's healthcare provider to check in if your baby bumps their head. In most cases, it will be unnecessary to be seen by your doctor. For minor bumps, your doctor will explain to you what at-home care measures to take and when you might need to bring your baby in for evaluation.

The kinds of scenarios where your doctor might want to see your baby for an evaluation include changes in your baby’s behavior following a head bump or signs of infection at the site of the bump.

If you do bring your baby in to see your doctor, they will start by asking you a series of questions, including:

  • How your baby bumped their head and when the bump occurred
  • What the bump looked like at the time it happened and what other symptoms your baby had
  • If your baby has shown signs of extra fussiness, loss of consciousness, memory issues, vomiting, seizures, or extra sleepiness

Your doctor will also do a thorough examination of your baby. If your answers to any of these questions concern your doctor, or if the examination turns up any red flags, your doctor might recommend going to the hospital for further evaluation and imaging studies to assess for a more serious head injury.

Otherwise, your doctor will probably recommend a day or two of extra vigilance and discuss what concerning signs to look out for.

If Your Baby's Bump Isn't Going Away

Most bumps to the head will last a few days and then gradually get better. As they heal, you might notice the skin around the bump starting to bruise; this is a normal part of healing. Some bumps cause “goose eggs,” which may happen a few hours after the bump first occurs. These are due to broken blood vessels and swelling, and are normal.

If there was a cut to the skin that show signs of infection (yellow crusting, oozing, swollen, redness, fever), you should consult your doctor. If the bump continues to enlarge, rather than decrease in size over the course of several days, you should also call your doctor.

How to Prevent Future Bumps

To some extent, a bump to the head is a rite of passage for a baby, especially as they begin to explore their surroundings and try new things with their bodies. At the same time, there are some precautions all parents can take to minimize the risk of minor and major bumps to the head.

  • Always attend to your baby when they are on the changing table, bed, or any elevated surface.
  • Always use properly installed car seats and safety helmets.
  • Avoid baby walkers, which are known safety hazards and can cause falls.
  • Baby-proof your home before your baby even starts crawling. Put padding on sharp corners and remove any slippery items from the floor.
  • Never place your child’s car seat on a shopping cart, and never place baby seats or car seats on elevated surfaces with your baby in them.

A Word From Verywell

It is always stressful when your baby bumps their head, especially the first time it happens. You may blame yourself and wonder what you could have done differently. You can take solace in the fact that almost all babies will bump their head at some point. It’s no joke when people say that babies are made of rubber—their skulls are very protective and it’s rare for babies to experience serious brain injuries.

However, anytime a baby under the age of 12 months bumps their head, it’s always a good idea to contact your healthcare provider. In most cases, you won't even have to bring your baby in. Your doctor can help you assess the situation and tell you what warning signs to watch out for. Most of all, trust your instincts; if you think something is seriously wrong with your baby, never hesitate to seek immediate medical care.

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5 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nemours. Head Injuries (For Parents).

  2. Harvard Health. Head Injury in Children.

  3. Child Mind Institute. Helping Children Cope After a Traumatic Event.

  4. Nemours. Headaches (For Parents).

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Concussion Signs and Symptoms.

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