Why Do Babies Shake Their Heads? Is It Normal?


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baby shakes head side to side

First-time parents usually get worried when their child starts doing something unusual. During the first twelve months of their life, babies reach various developmental milestones. Most parents who are unfamiliar with these early changes related to reflexes and motor skills become anxious.

Headbanging or head shaking is common in growing babies. These jerky movements show that your baby is beginning to take control of his muscles. Shaking his head is his way of demonstrating playfulness and interaction.

However, if you are new to parenting, you must be wondering why do babies shake their heads. To help you alleviate your concerns, we have put together all you need to know about why do babies shake their heads.

When does it start?

Babies start showing this repetitive behavior, usually when they are two months old. Head shaking is an essential landmark in the first year of your child’s life. It indicates healthy growth and development. However, sometimes it may be a sign of a neurological or developmental disorder.

Should you worry?

The most pressing question that may be lingering around your head is, should I worry?

The immediate answer is no.

Gross motor skills are an essential aspect of your child’s proper development. Your child learns to use his appendages and muscles to communicate and respond to his surroundings. Usually, a seven-months-old baby can sit, reach for things, and roll over on his own. Although watching your baby shaking his head may seem strange, it is necessary for your child’s mental progress.

What’s more, your baby may be testing how his body moves ormerely trying to get your attention. Otherwise, he may be imitating someone or trying to self-soothe himself when he gets sleepy.

Does headshaking indicate autism in your child?

While head shaking is a healthy activity, it may also be a sign of an ear infection or autism. However, such cases are quite rare. If your child is autistic, he will show some other signs besides head shaking. He may have trouble making eye contact with you and will be unresponsive when you call his name.

Also, he may repetitively bang his head on the crib or wall. Slower development and lack of interest are also commonly observed in autistic babies. Most of these signs present themselves within the first eighteen months of a child’s life.

If your baby isn’t showing any of the signs above, there is no reason for you to be alarmed about. However, paying close attention to changes in your child’s behavior is a good thing. It will help you identify different growth milestones.

Why do babies shake their heads from side to side?

To help you better understand why do babies shake their heads, we have compiled a list of the various normal and abnormal causes of head shaking. Read on to find out when head shaking should be a cause of concern.

Normal causes of head shaking

Almost all babies shake or bang their heads due to the reasons listed below. These seven reasons show that head shaking is a normal behavior in infants. So, let’s take a look at them.

1.      Trying to interact or respond

During early growth, babies start shaking their heads as a part of social interaction. Headbanging acts as a mode of non-verbal communication for children. Moreover, you may observe an increase in headshaking when your baby is excited.

2.      Developing motor skills

On the full development of neck muscles, babies try to test their ability to move their heads. It leads to jerking movements as the muscles are weak. However, it aids in developing gross motor skills.

3.      Learning to control their body

Babies usually start learning to control their bodies when they are four to five months old. They explore things by stretching out their arms. Also, they learn how to respond to your actions.

4.      Testing their movements

Another reason for head shaking is that kids try to test the extent of their movements. Also, they reach out for things around them.

5.      Displaying fatigue

Most kids shake their heads when they feel tired as a self-soothing gesture. Again, it is nothing to be alarmed about! This repetitive movement helps them fall asleep.

6.      While breastfeeding

Lastly, babies shake their heads when they try to latch onto your nipples. Unable to speak, babies start shaking their heads to let you know that they are hungry. Thus, you don’t have to be concerned about why do babies shake their heads.

Abnormal causes of headshaking

Head shaking may also be a sign of infections and mental disorders. Listed below are some of the diseases accompanied by headbanging in babies.

1.      Ear infection

Ear infections in babies lead to blockage of the inner ear. It causes pain, discomfort, and is associated with fever, crying, and head shaking.Therefore, you should be very careful about such sings.

2.      Spasmus nutans

Head bobbing and rapid eye movement are common in this disorder. It usually occurs between the fourth and twelfth months of a child’s life. However, the child recovers from this condition later on.

3.      Myoclonic epilepsy

Severe neurological disorders can result in myoclonic epilepsy. It is associated with head jerks and spasms. So, you should be well aware of your child’s movements.

4.      Autism spectrum disorder

Frequent and involuntary headbanging is a sign of autism. Early diagnosis can prove helpful in improving the quality of your child’s life.

How can you stop your child from shaking his head?

Head shaking can cause disorientation and dizziness. It increases the risk of falling and hitting a table or crib. Here is what you can do to lessen it.

  • Try giving a massage to relax your baby’s muscles
  • Maintain a calm environment in your baby’s room
  • Feed your baby on time and give him attention
  • Find a method to soothe him before he goes to sleep

The Bottom Line

Now that you have read the whole article, you would’ve understood why do babies shake their heads. Still, if you feel worried, you can consult your pediatrician. Watching your baby grow up healthy is an absolute delight. Feel free to share your experiences with us in the comments below.





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