There is one story my mom always tells when the subject of childhood safety scares comes up during family discussions. She was an absolute worrywart and was very careful to make sure nothing bad happened to me as I grew up, but one slip-up during bath time gave her a story she will never forget.

I was barely three years old when my mom was giving me a bath in the tub. After twenty minutes of cleaning up and playing with various bath toys, my mom decided it was time for me to get out so she got the towel ready and I stood up before she could react. I lost my balance and fell hard into the edge of the tub, and my mom screamed in horror when she saw that my entire right ribcage was suddenly concave from the impact. My dad ran into the bathroom and they rushed me to the hospital with only a towel wrapped around my body. In tears, my mother began telling the doctor what happened as he removed the towel. To my parents’ utter shock, my ribcage had returned to normal without even a bruise of evidence. The doctor explained that while the phenomenon was strange, it was perfectly normal.

A young child’s body is malleable because it had to squeeze through the birth canal. For this same reason, you might see that your newborn’s nose looks smashed against his face and that his head is in a conical shape. In just a few days, the features of his face and head will return to normal. If a newborn’s body wasn’t malleable, his nose and bones might actually break under the pressure of birth. Since this characteristic lasts into childhood, you might notice it in situations like my own. Of course, you should never rely on your child’s malleable bones. Always assume that impact could break any part of a child’s body. If you’re lucky, an accidental impact will only result in a temporary concave appearance, but there’s no guarantee.

Whether your baby comes out of the womb with a smushed nose or he falls in the tub and comes out with a concave ribcage, understand that the human body is meant to be malleable in the first years of life. It allows for fast healing from minor issues. However, even if the injury seems temporary, check with a pediatrician to be sure. 

Source: Laura Pogliani et al: Positional Plagiocephaly: What the Pediatrician Needs to Know. Child’s Nervous System Volume 27 Issue 11 pp. 1867-1867 November 2011 Springer