Babies’ bones are different than adult bones. They have more of them – babies are born with about 300 bones while adults only have 206. Babies have more cartilage elements, allowing their skeletons to bend and compress during birth. For example, a baby’s skull has several plates that can squeeze together so the baby fits through the birth canal. Those plates later fuse together into hard bone.
Because babies’ bones have more cartilage, they’re also more fragile. That puts babies at risk for fractures. It can often be difficult to diagnose a bone fracture in an infant – they can’t tell you what hurts. While bone fractures are rarely fatal, they can be very painful and require prompt treatment to avoid deformities. That means parents and doctors need to be on the lookout for signs of a fracture.
Babies are at risk for bone fractures during delivery, especially if the delivery is particularly difficult. If the baby or mother is in distress and the delivery needs to be sped up, doctors may pull on the baby’s arms or head to help the baby through the birth canal. If that pulling is too rough, the baby may suffer broken bones.
In most cases, broken bones during delivery are preventable. Unfortunately, negligence or inexperience by medical care providers can lead to this type of injury. In some cases, strong contractions or breech deliveries can cause broken bones without any pulling or stretching by doctors or nurses.
Click on the links below to learn more about infant bone fractures.