Baby arching back while feeding

Baby Arching Back: Why Do Babies Arch Their Backs?

Does your little one keep arching their back? If so, you might be curious to know why babies do this. Maybe you notice your baby arching their back when crying, or while sleeping. Or maybe there’s no pattern at all and your baby is simply a casual acrobat! Read on to learn more about this curious movement, including why it happens and when it could be cause for concern.

Why Do Babies Arch Their Backs?

A baby who is arching their back may be doing so for a number of reasons, and very few are cause for concern. Babies and newborns most often arch their backs while they’re crying, and sometimes when nursing, eating, sleeping, or working on motor development. It’s typically just an expressive movement, a way to communicate, or a reflexive motion in reaction to something. However, if back arching accompanies certain symptoms, it could indicate a health condition. We’ve rounded up the most common reasons why babies arch their backs along with guidance on when you do and don’t need to contact your child’s healthcare provider.

Gas and Reflux

A gassy baby can also be a back-arching baby! When you’re feeding your little one, they may eat too fast or swallow air, which can cause gas. And because gas can lead to an upset stomach and discomfort, your child may move around, arching their back or pulling their legs up to find some relief.

Similarly, if your infant or baby is arching their back while nursing, or perhaps when eating solid foods, it could be a sign of reflux. Gastroesophageal reflux (GER) is when your baby’s food comes back up through the esophagus after feeding. Gassiness and GER are nothing to worry about unless they’re prolonged or accompany other symptoms. For example, if your baby is crying and arching their back after eating, it could be a sign of a food allergy or sensitivity. And if GER lasts more than 12 to 14 months, it could be a condition called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and may require some feeding adjustments or medical intervention. If you’re going through quite a few diapers these days, download our Pampers Club App to start earning rewards on all your diapers and wipes purchases. Do you know the right diaper size for your baby? Take the quiz below to find out!

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Building Muscles and Motor Skills

As your baby progresses beyond the newborn stage, you’ll start to see more and more movement. Your little one is busy working on developing muscle strength and control—especially in the back and neck muscles—which they need to master motor skills and reach important development milestones, like sitting up. Arching the back may be part of this exciting process. For example, at around 4 months or a little later, your baby may start trying to lift their chest, which involves pushing up on the arms and arching the back. These infant pushups help build upper body strength and balance, which your baby needs to stay stable and upright when sitting. You might also see your baby arching their back while they rock on their stomach, kicking their legs and doing a swimming motion with their arms—all of this is to prepare for rolling over and sitting up. You can help your baby practice their moves and build those essential muscles by including tummy time in your daily routine. Always make sure to stay close to your baby during tummy time sessions. To learn more about the benefits of tummy time, watch the video below.

Being Overstimulated or Colicky

Babies cry often and for different reasons—they could be bored or tired, hungry or uncomfortable. Crying is how they communicate. And when babies cry because they’ve become overstimulated, they may arch their back at the same time. It’s common for colicky babies to arch their backs during crying spells, too. Here are a few things that babies may be reacting to or experiencing when they’re crying and arching their backs:

  • Too much stimulation. Babies do need breaks from play and interaction. Babies have a stimulation threshold, and yours may have reached theirs when they start crying, arching the back, and looking away. Your baby is letting you know it’s time for a break, such as a nap.

  • Colic. One of the signs of colic in babies is an arching back. Colic is when an otherwise healthy baby cries for more than three hours a day during at least three days a week, for three or more weeks. If your baby has colic, you may notice them arching their back, straightening their arms and legs, crying or screaming for extended periods, or clenching their fists.

Sleeping, Nursing, Eating, and Teething

Sometimes babies or newborns arch their backs while doing everyday things, like nursing or sleeping, or while going through the teething stage. Here is additional insight on what it means when your baby arches their back in these situations:

  • Sleeping. Sometimes, you may notice your baby arching their back while sleeping. Your baby could be moving around or stretching in a stage of light sleep or could be arching the back to relieve gas. Remember to always put your baby down to sleep on the back, as this is the safest way for babies to slumber.

  • Nursing and eating. Arching the back relates to gas and reflux, as your baby might eat too much too fast. If your little one gets gassy a lot, try using a slow-flow baby bottle designed to limit the amount of air swallowed, which can help prevent gas and reflux.

  • Teething. Teething can cause swollen and tender gums that may make your baby a little fussy and uncomfortable. If your baby is crying and/or arching their back while teething, try massaging their gums or letting them chew on a teething toy made with hard rubber.

What to Do and When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider

By now, you probably understand that a newborn or older baby arching their back is natural, normal, and typically not a cause for concern. However, if your baby is arching their back because of discomfort or pain, it could be related to a health condition. There are a few things you can do at home to help your baby, but if this movement accompanies more serious symptoms, it’s best to contact your child’s healthcare provider to rule out any medical issues that may require treatment. In the chart below, you’ll find a few home remedies to help you with issues causing your baby to arch the back. However, if you notice any of the serious symptoms listed, contact your child’s healthcare provider.

When babies arch their backs, it’s mostly related to normal development or common conditions that you and your child’s healthcare provider can manage from home. However, there are some additional, more complicated issues that could cause your baby to arch their back, so consult the provider when:

  • any of the serious symptoms listed above occur

  • your baby appears to be in pain

  • your baby exhibits odd behavior or a change in behavior

  • you have any questions or concerns.

Usually, back-arching isn’t something to worry about, but it’s always best to double-check with your child’s healthcare provider.

The Bottom Line

You may be asking yourself, “Why does my baby boy or girl arch his or her back?”—and you’re not the only parent wondering about this curious little behavior! You may notice your baby or newborn arching their back when tired, hungry, uncomfortable, or upset. Other reasons include your little one having gas or reflux, or wanting to show off new back muscle skills. This behavior isn’t typically something to worry about but be sure to contact your child’s healthcare provider with any questions or concerns. Together, you can explore why your baby arches their back and determine if any medical intervention or treatment is necessary. Most likely, your little acrobat is simply expressing themselves with this natural and normal movement!

Causes, Solutions, and When to Worry

By now you’ve likely learned to recognize the various types of crying your baby has. You can distinguish between the I’m-so-hungry cry and the get-me-out-of-this-soggy-diaper cry. Your finely tuned ear may also pick up the I-need-attention and cuddle-me-now cries.

Sometimes crying is accompanied by expressive body movements, including an arched back. Back or spine arching — like a bow or doing the cat pose in yoga — is common in babies. Babies arch their backs for many reasons.

In some cases, an arched back along with other symptoms can signal a health condition. But if your baby arches their back without any other symptoms, chances are they’re just a natural at yoga. Let your baby’s pediatrician know about the back arching, just to be on the safe side.

Here’s what to look for and what your baby might be trying to tell you.


Gassiness can be common in a baby’s brand new digestive system. Some babies can have bouts of fussiness that last for several day or weeks. This is sometimes labeled generically as colic.

Colic can start when your baby is only 4 to 6 weeks old and cause crying for hours at a time. Fortunately, babies usually outgrow colic by the time they’re 4 months old.

Your baby might arch their back when they have gas or an upset stomach. This could be because arching the back stretches the stomach a bit and might make them feel a little better. You might notice that your baby arches their back after feeding, when trying to poop, and even while lying down.

Baby reflux

Reflux, or gastroesophageal reflux, is common in babies right from birth to about 18 months of age.

Babies reflux happens because the round muscles that pinch both ends of the stomach closed don’t yet work properly in these new little humans. If your baby is premature, they might have more reflux.

Your (very healthy) baby can have reflux several times a day. It’s usually completely normal and nothing to worry about. But, sometimes if they’re spitting up and seem to have other symptoms, they may arch their back.

Similar to when babies have colic, they might arch their back because it helps bring down the feeling that come with reflux. You might notice this during and after feeding, while your baby is lying down, and even while they’re fast asleep.

Body language

Sometimes your baby might arch their back because they don’t want to be held or fed. This kind of body stiffening could be a sign to put them down or change position.

Some babies have strong back muscles and this may be the easiest way — other than crying — for their body to tell you what they want. Your little independent one may use the “back arch method” to get out of unwanted cuddles up to the age of 2 years! (Don’t take it personally, mom and dad.)

Startle reflex

Most babies have a startle reflex (also called the Moro reflex) when they hear a sudden or loud noise. It might also happen if they feel like they’re falling or if they’re moved suddenly.

Startling may make a baby suddenly straighten their legs forward and throw back their arms. Their head may also jerk backwards, making their back arch. The startle reflex usually goes away by the time baby is 2 to 4 months old.

Rollover attempts

As your little one gets used to tummy time, they’re also building stronger back and neck muscles. They’ve learned to lift their head and realize that the more they can move, the more they can look around. This is exciting!

So your baby may arch their back during tummy time or while they’re lying down on their side or back to get into a better position to explore. Some babies arch their backs when they’re trying to roll over or move forward. You’ll probably see their eyebrows go up as they wiggle every muscle they can.

Temper tantrums

Your little angel might have a head start on the terrible twos. Some babies arch their backs and throw their heads back when they’re upset or frustrated. This can happen while they’re lying down, sitting down, standing — or even cradling in your arms. A baby in the heat of a tantrum may also cry, whine, and thrash about.

Just about anything might set off a temper tantrum. Your little one may be hungry and not getting what they ordered from you — their short-order cook — immediately. Or they may be finished feeding and want to go play. Or your baby might be frustrated because they can’t express their needs to you.

No matter what the reason for a tantrum, it can be alarming when your baby arches their back and throws their head backwards. They can hurt themselves — and bump you squarely in the face.

If your little one gets into the habit of this, look for warning signs like crying or being upset first.

Related: Help! Why is my toddler angry and what can I do to help them?

Seizures or seizure-like movements

Although it sounds serious, seizures in newborn babies aren’t the same as seizures or epilepsy in older children and adults. Your baby may have seizures — or seizure-like movements and behaviors that are mistaken for seizures — that begin in the first week of life.

A seizure can last for a few seconds. Your baby might suddenly be very quiet and look like they are very stiff or frozen. Or they may still be able to move their hands by rotating their wrists.

Some babies may arch their backs during what appears to be seizure-like behavior. It can happen at any time, usually when your baby is awake or just drifting asleep.

Newborn seizures are uncommon, but may happen because a baby’s brain is still growing and the nerves can get their wires crossed. One rare type of newborn seizures can run in families. Some babies with this rare genetic type of seizure disorder may have them often, while others have them once in a while or not at all. These baby seizures usually stop completely by the time your child is 6 to 9 months old.

Nerve damage

Your baby’s delicate neck and back can get sprained in a difficult delivery. Sometimes, the nerves between the neck and shoulders can get damaged.

Erb’s palsy is a condition that happens to about 1 out of every 1,000 newborns. It happens when the neck nerves are weak because of too much stretching during birth. The weaker nerves lead to weaker muscles in the neck and shoulder.

This may cause back arching in your baby, because they can move their back muscles and other strong muscles better than their neck muscles. However, back arching alone isn’t a sign of this condition. It would come with other symptoms — in particular, decreased movement in one shoulder and arm.

Most babies with Erb’s Palsy and other nerve damage from birth recover completely. Your baby’s pediatrician may recommend daily exercises to help make the neck and shoulder muscles stronger.

Newborn jaundice

Almost 60 percent of newborns have jaundice. This condition might make your baby look a bit yellow. It happens because a new baby’s tiny liver is not yet working properly, which causes too much bilirubin in the blood. This chemical is left over from when your body breaks down blood.

Babies have the most bilirubin when they are 3 to 5 days old. Normally, the liver kicks in and clears up the bilirubin by the time your baby is a couple of weeks old.

Sometimes, the jaundice gets worse instead of better. In rare cases, too much bilirubin, causing severe jaundice, can cause a kind of brain condition called kernicterus.

Arching the back is a classic sign of brain damage from kernicterus in babies who have or have had very high bilirubin levels. Other symptoms include:

  • high pitch crying
  • floppiness or stiffness
  • hard to wake up or not sleeping at all
  • not feeding well

This serious condition only happens if the jaundice isn’t treated and bilirubin levels get very high. If your baby is diagnosed with kernicterus, they can still be treated by a specialist doctor.

Cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy is a group of muscle control conditions. It usually happens when there is brain damage while your baby is still in the womb. About 1 in 323 children worldwide have a type of cerebral palsy.

Signs of this condition might show up while your little one is a baby or toddler. Signs include muscle floppiness, strong reflexes, and stiffening (like arching the back). Babies with cerebral palsy may also have trouble swallowing and moving their eyes. Some babies with this condition may also be more likely to have seizures.

Sandifer syndrome

Sandifer syndrome is a rare movement condition almost always associated with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). It starts in babies or small children. Once the baby is treated for GERD (or it goes away on its own), this condition goes away.

Sandifer syndrome causes serious back arching in babies that can last for up to 3 minutes. It causes a frozen kind of back arching that can sometimes be mistaken for a baby seizure.

Back arching from this syndrome can happen about 10 times a day, usually after your baby has eaten. During back arching your baby will also stretch their legs out backwards and be very stiff. Other symptoms of Sandifer syndrome include:

  • tilting the head to one side
  • nodding head movements
  • poor feeding
  • vomiting
  • problems with eye movements

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) typically show several signs. This sometimes includes repetitive motions like back arching, but remember that back arching is much more often due to other causes.

Autistic children may show symptoms around the time they are a year old (or earlier), but most kids aren’t diagnosed until they’re about 3 years old.

A newborn or a baby that is only a few weeks to a few months old will likely not show signs of this condition. If your child is on the autism spectrum, they’ll likely have several other signs along with back arching.

By the end of the first year, an autistic baby may show characteristic traits that are more common, like:

  • not smiling spontaneously at parents or caregivers
  • not using eye contact to communicate
  • not gesturing (waving or pointing) on their own

Later on your child may show other repetitive motions, such as:

  • stiffening their arms
  • flapping their hands
  • walking on their toes

In most cases, your baby’s back arching will go away on its own as they learn to roll over and control their body better, outgrow the startle reflex, and get more comfortable with people around them.

If there’s a health problem that’s making your little one arch their back, treating the underlying condition will solve the back arching. For example, treating common baby problems like gassiness and acid reflux will take care of the back stretching.

For normal gassiness and baby reflux you can try simple, low risk home remedies like:

  • prop your baby upright after feeding
  • avoid overfeeding
  • give smaller feeds more often
  • use a smaller bottle and nipple size to stop air-gulping if this seems to be an issue
  • thicken breast milk or formula with a tiny bit of infant cereal (check with your pediatrician first as this can have risks)

If your little angel is throwing their head backwards and arching their back in a toddler temper tantrum, gentle behavior training may help stop this. Teaching your child how to express themselves in a less dramatic way might help. Ask your pediatrician for recommendations.

Some babies with seizures will naturally outgrow them. Other more serious causes of back arching may need physical therapy, medications, surgery, or other medical treatment.

Sometimes gassiness and fussiness can start to be accompanied by other symptoms that won’t go away, and acid reflux might be a sign of a more serious health condition. Call your child’s pediatrician urgently if your baby:

  • is crying for 3 hours or longer
  • is arching their back and showing other signs of pain
  • throws up every time you feed them
  • is irritable during feeding
  • refuses to feed
  • isn’t gaining weight or has lost weight
  • isn’t wetting their diaper

Look for symptoms of brain or nerve problems along with back arching. Contact your child’s doctor or go to urgent or emergency care right away if your baby experiences:

  • sudden difficulty latching or feeding
  • weak sucking
  • difficulty swallowing
  • high-pitched cry
  • seizures
  • bulging or swollen soft spots on the head
  • stiffness
  • floppiness
  • strange head or neck posture
  • jerking movements
  • muscle spasms

If your baby’s got back (arching), you probably don’t have to worry. Babies arch their backs for many reasons — or for no reason at all. In a happy, comfortable, healthy baby, back arching likely has no cause and is just one of those things they do.

This common baby movement can also be a sign of other underlying health problems — sometimes serious. If you notice your baby is arching their back, look for other symptoms. Let your pediatrician know what you notice. Make sure you take your new bundle of joy to all their regular check-ups.

Why does the baby arch and cry during feeding?

For various psychological and physiological reasons, your baby may suddenly arch and cry during feeding. This can happen both on breastfeeding and with artificial feeding. Most often, in this way, the child demonstrates his protest, dissatisfaction with the process itself or its quality, or his poor health.

In order to understand what to do when the baby arches and cries during feeding, it is necessary to find out the reasons for this behavior. To do this, you will have to conduct many different "experiments" and be patient, but there are ways to solve the problem.

Possible causes of baby arching and crying while feeding:

  • neurological problems not related to the feeding process itself;
  • intestinal or stomach colic;
  • dissatisfaction with the quantity and quality of milk;
  • whims.

Many mothers believe that this behavior only occurs during direct breastfeeding, and they wonder why the baby arches and cries during bottle feeding. But the reasons can be exactly the same, and they should not be underestimated. In any case, it is better to fix the problem as early as possible, when the mind and habits of the child are still being formed.

An attentive mother will have to consider each of the reasons (and possibly their combination) in order to understand the child's behavior. First of all, it is necessary to exclude the most frightening and dangerous problem - neurological. Arching and crying can be triggered by problems with the neck and back, increased restlessness of the baby, and edematous processes in the brain. Only a specialist doctor can tell you for sure if you should be worried. If no problems were identified during a routine examination of the baby by a neurologist, most likely you will be able to cope with the problem yourself.

Problems with the quantity or quality of food

First of all, mom should carefully consider her diet. It must be correct and balanced, in order for milk to be a complete food for the baby, you should not overdo it with spices. That is why the baby arches and cries during feeding, he may be dissatisfied with the taste and quality of milk, which in turn can provoke many other problems and diseases. Try to temporarily exclude or add some products (one at a time), and watch the baby's reaction. Also, the child may not be satisfied with the amount of food, so try giving him a little more or a little less food (this is also true with artificial feeding), so you exclude options that the child is nervous because he is hungry or overeaten.


If you notice how the baby cries and arches during feeding, and sometimes for a long time after it, then there is a high probability that he is suffering from colic. Most babies go through this between the ages of 3 weeks and 3-6 months, and it's not always possible for parents to do anything to alleviate the baby's physical discomfort. Often colic pesters children at night, so feeding at this time is especially difficult. You can cope with colic with a variety of folk methods: a bath, a warm heating pad or diaper, special syrups. In fact, the main thing for the baby at this moment is to feel the warmth and support of the mother. At the age of maximum 6 months, colic usually disappears and feeding is fully established.


Perhaps, coping with the whims of a child is sometimes much more difficult than with a physical illness. There is no single pattern of behavior here, but the main advice is to make it clear to the child that you care about him and give him enough attention, follow a clear regime and routine, and lead a single holistic line of education. And be patient.

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why this happens and what needs to be done

When parents first encounter this phenomenon, they may be seriously alarmed. What is it - a symptom of a neurological disease or just whims? In most cases, when the baby arches, throwing his head back, there is nothing to worry about. But there are situations when the intervention of a specialist is necessary.

What you need to know if the baby throws his head back and arches

The baby arches and throws his head back, but does not show dissatisfaction Most likely there is nothing to worry about. Perhaps he is trying to see something up or behind his back, or learning new skills. In some cases, this may be a manifestation of hypertonicity. In the first six months, this may be within the normal range, but if such phenomena are observed frequently or persist for a long time, you should see a doctor.
The child shows anxiety A lot here depends on the general condition of the baby. He may arch and whimper if his back is itchy or his nose is stuffy. More vivid signs of discontent will be if the child is tormented by colic, pain, or he is frightened. If you cannot find the cause and / or this condition recurs often, you need to see a doctor for a diagnosis.

Variants of the physiological norm

In some cases, the child can pull the back of the head back for the simplest reasons: he is studying his body and the world around him. But there may be other reasons as well.

Below, we will consider in more detail all situations where “acrobatic stunts” are a physiological norm.

Hypertonicity in infants under 6 months

Physiological hypertonicity of the limb flexors in children under 6 months of age is considered normal. The fact is that at this age the maturation of the nervous system is still ongoing.

Mastering the skill

Baby mastering the skill of rolling onto his stomach. In this case, the child lies on his side and throws his head back, trying to roll over from his back to his stomach. You can help the baby: throw one leg over the other crosswise in the direction where the child wants to roll over. After this, the baby must himself complete the coup with the upper body.


Often the baby, rolling in hysterics, arches, throws back his head, bursting into heart-rending crying. There is nothing wrong with this, take the baby in your arms and try to calm him down. You need to understand what alarmed him and eliminate the cause.

Affective-respiratory attacks

This is the name of the phenomenon when, for some reason, the child stops breathing for a short time. Often, such attacks are accompanied by tantrums, but they can also be provoked, for example, by fright or a sudden change in the environment (for example, when immersed in cold water). What it looks like: the child “rolls up” in a cry, his neck extensor muscles tighten, his torso arches, the nasolabial triangle turns blue, and at the height of the cry, the breath is suddenly held while inhaling, the skin turns blue (1). After a few seconds, the child comes to his senses, breathing becomes regular.

These seizures can occur in healthy children during the first year of life and are usually harmless. But if such situations are repeated often and, perhaps, for no apparent reason, you should consult a doctor to rule out various diseases.

Colic and bloating

Terrible dream of parents of babies under the age of 3-4 months. Colic is also a variant of the norm, since intestinal motility in a child is not yet fully developed.

During colic, the baby screams heart-rendingly, arches and throws back his head, blushes strongly, clenching his fists and twisting his legs (2). The abdomen is hard and swollen, the child may refuse to eat. There are several ways to help a baby:

  • gently massage the tummy,
  • put on a clean diaper, ironed with a hot iron,
  • give medicine for colic (only after consulting a doctor!).

If the baby is breastfed, the mother should be more careful about her diet and exclude foods that increase gas formation: cabbage, legumes, carbonated drinks, chocolate. In the most extreme cases, the use of a gas outlet tube is acceptable.

Runny nose

It happens that with a runny nose, when it is difficult for an infant to breathe, he begins to arch and worry. Try to help the baby by raising his mattress by 30 degrees to improve the outflow of mucus, and also monitor the humidity and air temperature in the room where the child sleeps.

Trying to find a sleeping position

Sometimes babies arch their backs and tilt their heads back, trying to get comfortable before going to bed. The fact is that in the womb, children are often in unnatural positions, and in the first months of life they can unconsciously repeat them.

Other reasons

If the child is arching but not complaining, he may be trying to look at toys hanging over him.

Try to hang the mobile and rattles so that the child does not have to dodge to look at them. Keep in mind that if the toys are hung too close to the baby's face, it may adversely affect his vision.

In addition, the child may arch for very banal reasons: perhaps his back or neck itches.

When the child should be seen by a pediatrician or a neurologist

What to do if you are convinced that the baby does not suffer from colic, have tried all the ways, but the baby does not calm down and continues to cry and bend over, throwing his head back? To relieve yourself of anxiety, seek the advice of a pediatrician or neurologist.

Let's consider situations when such behavior of the baby may indicate health problems.

Increased intracranial pressure

Sometimes, if the pregnancy was complicated, the child developed intrauterine hypoxia, or there was a difficult delivery, then in the first months the baby may have increased intracranial pressure, due to which he will arch, throw back his head and cry. If intracranial pressure is suspected, it is urgent to show the baby to the doctor to avoid complications.

CSF hypertension symptoms

Irritability, tearfulness, constant crying for no apparent reason, negative reaction to bright lights or loud sounds. Also, often increased intracranial pressure is accompanied by convulsions, profuse regurgitation after feeding. The baby sleeps little and constantly wakes up, when he screams, his lips and chin tremble violently, and the nasolabial triangle also turns blue. In severe cases, the baby's fontanel swells and protrudes, strabismus develops.

Raised intracranial pressure can sometimes be a symptom of a serious illness, such as meningitis, which develops atypically in young children.

Muscular hypertonicity

Arching of the back and tilting of the head may be a sign of muscular hypertonicity in a child. Often, hypertonicity is a consequence of oxygen starvation, fetal hypoxia during pregnancy or during prolonged labor. The most severe consequences can be encephalopathy and cerebral palsy.

Muscle tension can be all over the body or affect only one side of the baby's body. Parents should be alerted not only by the frequent arching of the child and throwing back the head, but also by the violation of the grasping function. Muscle hypertonicity is a reason to show the child to a doctor who, if necessary, will prescribe a course of treatment and massage.


Tilt-back of the child's head can also be caused by torticollis (a pathology of the musculoskeletal apparatus in the neck, due to which the child's head deviates to the side or can be turned to the side). Parents should be alerted if the child's head is always in the same position, and when you try to turn it in the other direction, the child worries and cries. Torticollis requires mandatory treatment, which includes wearing a special collar, massage courses and physiotherapy.

Meningeal syndrome

A complication may occur as a result of otitis media if treatment is started late. This is due to the underdevelopment of the structures of the middle ear in young children.

In this case, the child throws back his head unconsciously, trying to alleviate his condition (3). The following symptoms may also be observed:

  • convulsions,
  • vomiting,
  • confusion,
  • decreased motor activity.

You must go to the hospital immediately.


During an epileptic seizure, the child may arch, throwing back his head strongly, and freeze in this state for a while. After the attack passes, the child relaxes, begins to cry, urination or defecation occurs. Treatment of epilepsy is prescribed only by a doctor and takes place under medical supervision.

Cerebral palsy

If a child arches their back frequently for no apparent reason, this may be a sign of a pathology such as cerebral palsy (4). But other characteristic signs should also be observed:

  • developmental delays (late crawling, sitting, walking, talking),
  • low or increased muscle tone,
  • problems with speech and swallowing, with only one hand, limps at an older age).

Some of these signs may also be observed in healthy children, but if something worries you, it is worth taking the child to specialists in order to rule out a problem or start treatment in time.


Photo: Andrey Arkusha,

If you are worried that the baby often arches and throws his head back, it is better to seek advice from a doctor who will determine reliably whether this is a norm or a pathology. The doctor will listen to complaints, ask how the pregnancy, childbirth and the first days of the child's life proceeded, specify how often and under what circumstances the baby throws his head back, whether he cries or behaves calmly, whether the nasolabial triangle turns blue, whether the fontanel swells.

If necessary, the doctor can prescribe tests and examinations:

  • general blood and urine tests,
  • neurosonography (ultrasound of the brain through the fontanel),
  • electroencephalography (to rule out epilepsy).

However, CT and MRI scans are extremely rare for young children, since these studies are performed under general anesthesia so that the child is completely immobile.

Frequently asked questions and answers

Our expert, Veronika Oranskaya, neurologist, epileptologist, member of the League of Evidence-Based Medicine.

The baby throws back his head and arches after feeding - what can it be?

Sometimes tilting the head back after eating or only in a horizontal position during sleep can be a manifestation of the so-called Sandifer's syndrome, which occurs due to gastroesophageal reflux (reflux of stomach contents into the esophagus). Requires medical advice and treatment.

Can tilting the head be a symptom of a child's vision problem?

If for some reason (myasthenia gravis, oculomotor neuropathy, congenital feature) the child cannot raise the upper eyelid, he will tilt his head back.

What other possible pathologies can the tilting of the head and arching of the child indicate?

Sudden paroxysmal tilting of the head may be epileptic seizures. A forced constant tilt of the head back may indicate a brain tumor. When combined with an increase in temperature, tilting the head back may indicate meningitis. But most often the reasons for head tilt are all benign: the child doesn't like something, he is learning to roll over, or he just wants to look at something that is behind his head. If in doubt, consult a doctor.


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