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Broken Collarbone in Newborns

Broken Collarbone in Newborns

Your newborn has a broken (fractured) collarbone (clavicle). About 1 out of every 50 babies is born with a broken collarbone, which usually happens during a vaginal delivery.

How is the broken collarbone diagnosed?

The broken collarbone is usually noticed at birth. Sometimes it’s not diagnosed for days or even weeks, depending on the type of break.

You may notice that your baby:

  • doesn’t move the arm as much or at all
  • cries when the shoulder or arm is moved, as moving the arm hurts
  • has swelling, redness, or bruising in the shoulder or upper chest on the injured side

Although an x-ray or ultrasound may be ordered, they aren’t usually used to diagnose a broken collarbone.

What types of broken collarbones are there?

A non-displaced fracture means the broken bone is still lined up (aligned). If your baby doesn’t have any of the problems listed above, you may not even know that your baby’s collarbone is broken until you notice a lump (called a callous) over the broken area 7 to 10 days later. This lump forms where the broken bone is healing.

A displaced fracture means that the collarbone isn’t lined up. It’s often noticed earlier because of other symptoms like:

  • crackling or clicking under the skin
  • swelling
  • less arm movement
  • crying when the arm is moved

How long does it take to heal?

It takes 1 to 2 months for the broken bone to heal. If your baby has a callous over the area that’s healing, the callous can take up to 6 months to go away.

Your baby should start to move his or her arm more 1 to 2 weeks after birth, as the break starts to heal.

How do I care for my baby?

Your baby won’t move the injured side as much for 7 to 10 days, until it’s healing. While there’s no treatment for a broken collarbone, there are things you can do when caring for your baby:

  • Always be gentle when handling your baby.
  • Swaddle your baby, which helps support the area and keeps your baby comfortable.
  • Use sleepers with snaps down the front to make it easier to put on and take off.
  • When dressing your baby, put the injured arm in the sleeve first. When undressing, take it out last.
  • You can pin the sleeve of your baby’s clothing to keep the elbow at 90°. It may help keep your baby comfortable.
  • Give pain medicine as ordered by your healthcare provider.
  • Lay your baby on his or her back to sleep.
  • When doing tummy time every day, do it skin-to-skin (not on the floor or in the crib) for 1 to 2 weeks.

Follow-Up

The broken collarbone usually heals on its own without any problems. Remember that healing will take 1 to 2 months. The callous will take up to 6 months to go away.

See your healthcare provider for your baby’s regular newborn check-up.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider if:

  • your baby seems to be in more pain (e.g., crying more, won’t settle)
  • there’s no callous on the collarbone after 2 weeks
  • your baby isn’t moving his or her arm after 2 weeks

Current as of: January 20, 2017

Author: Pediatrics, Alberta Health Services