Baby shaking after feeding

Newborn Reflexes and Behavior

Is this your child's symptom?

  • Normal reflexes, noises and behavior questions in newborns
  • These are normal and not signs of illness
  • Flying and mountain travel with newborns is also covered

Newborn Reflexes - Topics Covered

These harmless behaviors fall into 11 general groups. If your baby is healthy, skip the "What to Do" section. Go directly to the topic number that relates to your question for advice.

  1. Normal primitive reflexes from immature nervous system
  2. Normal jitteriness when crying
  3. Normal sleep movements
  4. Normal breathing sounds and noises
  5. Normal irregular breathing patterns
  6. Normal GI sounds and noises
  7. Normal sleep sounds and noises
  8. Normal feeding reflexes
  9. Normal protective reflexes
  10. Flying with newborns, safety of
  11. Mountain travel with newborns, safety of

When to Call for Newborn Reflexes and Behavior

Call 911 Now

  • Can't wake up
  • Not moving or very weak
  • Weak or absent cry and new onset
  • Severe trouble breathing (struggling for each breath)
  • New moaning or grunting noises with each breath
  • Bluish (or gray) lips, tongue or face now
  • You think your child has a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor or Seek Care Now

  • Age less than 1 month old and looks or acts abnormal in any way. Examples are a poor suck or poor color.
  • Fever in baby less than 12 weeks old. Caution: do NOT give your baby any fever medicine before being seen.
  • Breathing stopped for more than 10 seconds and now it's normal
  • Trouble breathing, but not severe
  • Seizure suspected
  • Your child looks or acts very sick
  • You think your child needs to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Contact Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • You think your child needs to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Contact Doctor During Office Hours

  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Normal newborn reflexes and behavior
  • Flying or mountain travel with a newborn

Seattle Children's Urgent Care Locations

If your child’s illness or injury is life-threatening, call 911.

  • Bellevue
  • Everett
  • Federal Way
  • Seattle

Care Advice for Newborn Reflexes and Behavior

  1. Normal Primitive Reflexes From Immature Nervous System:
    • Startle Reflex (Moro or embrace reflex). Brief stiffening of the body, straightening of arms and opening of hands. Follows noise or abrupt movements. Frequent at birth. Slowly resolves by 4 months of age.
    • Tonic-Neck Reflex (Fencer's Reflex). When head is turned to 1 side, the arm and leg on that side straightens. The opposite arm and leg flexes. Goes away by 4 months of age.
    • Chin Trembling
    • Lower Lip Quivering
    • Jitters or Trembling (see Topic 2)
  2. Normal Jitters or Trembling when Crying:
    • Jitters or trembling of the arms and legs during crying is normal in newborns. It should stop by 1 to 2 months of age.
    • If your baby is jittery when not crying, it could be abnormal. Give her something to suck on. (Reason: Normal trembling should stop with sucking.)
    • Seizures are rare. During seizures, newborns are more than jittery. They have muscle jerking and blinking of the eyes. Babies can also make sucking movements of the mouth. They don't cry during seizures.
    • Call Your Doctor If:
    • The jitters get worse
    • The jitters occur when your baby is calm
  3. Normal Sleep Movements:
    • Sleep is not quiet. Expect some of the following:
    • Sudden jerks or twitches of the arms, hands or legs. If they only occur during sleep, they are most likely normal.
    • How Long: last a few seconds, but can recur
    • Timing: soon after falling asleep
    • Normal at all ages, not just in newborns
    • Suspect a seizure if: jerking occurs when awake or lasts more than 10 seconds
  4. Normal Breathing Sounds and Noises:
    • Throat Noises. Caused by air passing through normal saliva or refluxed milk. These gurgling noises are likely to build up during sleep. Slowly, the newborn learns to swallow more often.
    • Nasal Noises are usually caused by dried mucus in the nose. Your baby most likely doesn't have a cold. A blocked or stuffy nose can interfere with feeding. This is because your baby can't breathe when the mouth is closed with feeding. Therefore, babies need help opening the nasal passages.
    • Nasal Saline. Clean out the nose with saline (salt water) nose drops (such as store brand). If not available, can use bottled water. Use 1 drop at a time and do 1 side at a time. Repeat this several times. This will loosen up the dried mucus. Then, it can be sneezed out or swallowed. If needed, use a suction bulb. Avoid Q-tips which can injure the lining of the nose. Saline nose drops or spray can be bought in any drugstore. No prescription is needed.
    • Tobacco Smoke. Avoid tobacco smoke which can cause nasal congestion or sneezing. Avoid dust or any strong odors for the same reason.
    • Call Your Doctor If:
    • Nasal washes don't work
    • Breathing becomes hard
  5. Normal Irregular Breathing Patterns:
    • Transient Breathing Pauses of Less Than 10 Seconds. Also Called Periodic Breathing. Often, the pause is followed by some faster breathing to "catch-up." These breathing pauses are normal if the baby is comfortable during them. A normal rate should be less than 60 breaths per minute. Usually resolves by 1 month of age. Call your doctor if: Your baby is breathing fast or turned blue.
    • Transient Rapid Breathing. Sometimes, newborns take rapid, progressively deeper breaths. This is so they can expand their lungs all the way. This is normal if the breathing slows to normal within a minute or so.
    • Seesaw Breathing. With breathing, the chest seems to contract when the stomach expands. The cause is the soft rib cage of some newborns. It tends to pull in during normal downward movement of the diaphragm.
    • Yawning or Sighing (off and on) to open up the lungs
    • Call Your Doctor If:
    • Breathing becomes hard
    • Breathing pauses last more than 10 seconds
    • You have other questions or concerns
  6. Normal GI Sounds And Noises:
    • Belching air from stomach
    • Passing gas per rectum
    • Note: Both of these are releasing swallowed air. They are normal, harmless and lifelong. They do not cause pain or crying.
    • Gurgling or growling noises from the movement of food through the intestines
    • Normal grunting with pushing out stools
    • Hiccups. Hiccups are often caused by overeating. They can also be from a little acid irritating the lower esophagus. Give your baby a few swallows of water to rinse off the lower esophagus.
  7. Normal Sleep Sounds And Noises: Normal sleep is not motionless or quiet. Expect some of the following:
    • Moving during sleep transitions
    • Occasional startle reflex or jerks
    • Breathing noises - especially gurgling from secretions that sit in the throat.
    • During light sleep, babies can normally whimper, cry, groan or make other strange noises.
    • Parents who use a nursery monitor often become concerned about these normal sleep sounds.
    • GI tract noises from normal movement of digested food
  8. Normal Feeding Reflexes:
    • Rooting Reflex. When the side of the mouth or cheek is touched, your baby turns to that side. He will open his mouth in preparation for nursing. Present until 6 months of age.
    • Sucking Reflex. Will suck on anything placed in the mouth. This survival reflex does not imply hunger. It is even present right after a feeding. This reflex fades between 6 and 12 months of age.
  9. Normal Protective Reflexes:
    • Sneezing To Clear Nose of Any Irritant. Sneezing helps to open the nose. It's usually caused by dust, fuzz, tobacco smoke or other strong odors. If sneezing becomes frequent, use nasal washes. This is not caused by an allergy.
    • Coughing to clear lower airway
    • Blinking. After spending 9 months in darkness, newborns have light-sensitive eyes. At first, they prefer to keep their eyes closed. They blink often with light exposure.
  10. Flying With Newborns:
    • Never fly during the first 7 days of life. If flying is needed, it's safe to fly after 7 days of age.
    • If your newborn is not healthy, do not fly. Your child's doctor should give medical clearance first before flying.
    • Your baby can be exposed to infections aboard aircraft. Therefore, it is preferable not to fly before 2 or 3 months of age.
  11. Mountain Travel With Newborns:
    • Avoid mountain travel above 8,000 feet (2,438 meters) for the first month of life. (Exception: family lives there year-round)
    • Travel to destinations below 8,000 (2,438 meters) feet is safe.
    • Brief drives over higher mountain passes are safe.
    • If your newborn is not healthy, don't travel above 8,000 feet (2,438 meters). Your child's doctor should give medical clearance first.
  12. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Your baby starts to look or act abnormal in any way
    • You think your child needs to be seen

And remember, contact your doctor if your child develops any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: this health information is for educational purposes only. You, the reader, assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.

Last Reviewed: 01/05/2023

Last Revised: 12/30/2022

Copyright 2000-2023. Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC.

Should You be Concerned? (it depends)

Jitters, shivers, and shakes in newborns are very common, and they will freak out the majority of parents at some point. They’re usually just a sign of your baby’s nervous system developing and them adapting to life on the outside. Babies can even get the shakes if you drink too much coffee. Provided you’re breastfeeding, of course, they’re not THAT sensitive!

However, tremors can also be a sign of more serious conditions like seizures, deficiencies, and low blood sugar. So, if your newborn has a shaky leg, it’s essential to check some things out.

Is My Baby’s Leg Shaking Serious?

Here’s a quick guide to help you work out whether it’s OK to stop worrying or if you should take your little one for a check-up.

Your Baby’s Trembling Leg Is Probably Not Serious If:

  • The shaking stops when you gently hold their leg or offer them something to suck.
  • The episodes always happen during a particular activity, like a diaper change or as they’re falling asleep.
  • You breastfeed your baby, and you’ve had a few too many coffees.

The Leg Shaking Could Be a Sign of a More Serious Condition If:

  • Your baby seems unwell.
  • They haven’t been feeding well.
  • They are difficult to wake or lethargic.
  • They were exposed to nicotine, drugs, or alcohol while in the womb.

Leg Shaking Could Indicate a Seizure If:

  • There’s a noticeable change in your baby’s breathing, heart rate, eye movement, or mouth movement when they shake.
  • The movement can’t be stopped by gently holding their leg.
  • The episodes are identical each time.
  • The movements are symmetrical and rhythmic.
  • The shaking starts when there’s been no change in the environment or your baby’s posture, and they’re not about to fall asleep.

Is It Normal For A Babies Leg To Shake?

Around two-thirds of newborns will experience some tremors before they’re three days old. So, if your little one shakes sometimes, they’re in the majority.

However, don’t feel embarrassed to bring it up with your baby’s doctor if you’re worried. They’ll be happy to help.

Why Does My Newborn’s Leg Shake?

Your newborn’s twitching leg could be due to any of the following causes. Thankfully, most are completely harmless, and those that aren’t are easy to treat.

Immature Nervous System

The most common cause of twitching and jerking movements in your newborn’s legs is their immature nervous system. This means that the pathways that carry the signals from their brain to their muscles aren’t fully developed. So, when your little one tries to move their leg, the result is twitchy or shaky. This is perfectly normal and will stop on its own in a few weeks.

Benign Neonatal Sleep Myoclonus

If your baby’s leg shakes while they sleep, this is probably down to a sleep disorder known as Benign neonatal sleep myoclonus. It’s similar to a hypnic jerk, the sudden muscle contraction you might’ve experienced while falling asleep.

They can last from a few seconds to 20 minutes and don’t cause any harm. Your baby will grow out of them between 2 and 10 months old.

Dislike of Diaper Changes

If you notice your baby only gets twitchy legs when you change their diaper, it’s probably just their way of saying they don’t like it. On the other hand, the shaking could mean they’re excited. They like to keep us guessing.

Caffeine in Breast Milk

Newborns metabolize caffeine much more slowly than adults. So, while your latte might be doing just enough to keep your eyelids open, your newborn might get the full-on coffee jitters.

Most professionals recommend between 200 and 300 mg, or 2 and 3 cups of coffee per day. But don’t forget, chocolate contains caffeine too!

Low Blood Sugar

Tremors are the most common symptom of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, in babies. This cause is most likely if your little one has difficulty feeding, was born prematurely, or you had gestational diabetes. A doctor can confirm this with a blood sugar test, and you can usually treat your baby with careful feeding.

Vitamin D Deficiency

Jitteriness and tremors can be a sign of vitamin D deficiency. Your baby is more at risk if they are breastfed without vitamin D supplements or were born prematurely.

If you suspect this may be the cause of your little one’s jitters, speak to your doctor. It can be diagnosed with a quick blood test and easily treated with supplements.

Substance Withdrawal

Exposure to substances like nicotine, alcohol, opioids, marijuana, or cocaine during pregnancy can all result in newborn jitters and tremors. This can be a serious condition and usually requires support from a medical professional.


If your baby shows any of the signs of seizures listed above, you should seek a doctor’s opinion straight away. They may want to run an electroencephalogram (EEG) test or an MRI. Once they establish the cause of the seizures, many treatment options are available.

When Should You See a Doctor

You should take your little one to a doctor urgently if you think seizures, low blood sugar, vitamin D deficiency, or substance withdrawal are causing their tremors. These conditions require treatment, which you’ll want to get started on sooner rather than later.

If you don’t suspect any of these to be the problem, and your baby stops twitching when you gently hold their leg, you don’t need to do anything. However, mentioning anything like this at your baby’s next check-up is always a good idea.

Ensure you provide your baby’s doctor with a complete family history, as some conditions are genetic.


How Do I Stop My Baby’s Leg Shaking?

In most cases, gently gripping your baby’s leg, flexing their knee, or giving them something to suck will stop their leg from shivering. If this doesn’t work, you should take your little one to a doctor as there might be a more serious problem.

When Will My Baby’s Leg Stop Shaking?

Most babies outgrow their twitchiness by six months, depending on the cause. However, if their shaky leg is due to caffeine in breast milk, a deficiency, low blood sugar, or seizures, the shaking won’t stop until the underlying cause is treated.

My Baby’s Leg Is Shaking; Are They Cold?

If your baby is chilly, their neck will feel cool, they may become still or lethargic, and their hands and feet might appear slightly blue. Warm them up gently with a cuddle or extra layer, and the shivering will stop on its own.

If their neck and hands are fine and the room is between 68° and 72°F (20 to 22.2°C), the shaking is probably due to something else.

Why Do My Baby’s Legs Shake When They Stretch?

Brand-new babies don’t arrive with a fully developed nervous system. So as they stretch, the signals from their brain to their muscles don’t always arrive smoothly. This causes their movements to be jerky.

Peculiarities of infant development

All parents are anxious about the health of their baby. They are especially attentive to the child in the first weeks and months. after his birth: is everything all right with your beloved baby? If the child is the first, then moms and dads may not know about some of his features. development, and sometimes they are surprised or even frightened by the most ordinary phenomena. What worries young parents most often?

The child's arms and legs are tense all the time. Maybe it's hypertension and you need to start some kind of treatment? nine0007

One from the manifestations of physiological hypertonicity - incomplete breeding of the hips in the baby. This condition can be up to 4-6 months, after this period, the legs of the crumbs should be bred. If this does not happen, it is necessary to show the child to the doctor, since the difficulty dilution in the hips can be a sign of pathology of the hip joints

Yes, this is hypertonicity - an increased tone of the flexor muscles, but this is a completely normal phenomenon, which is present up to a certain age in all babies. If you look at a newborn, you can see that his arms are bent in all joints, to the body and pressed to the chest, the hands are clenched into fists, the thumbs of the hands lie under the four the rest. The legs of the baby are also bent at the joints and abducted at the hips, dorsiflexion predominates in the feet. Muscle tone usually higher in the arms than in the legs. Attentive parents will see that muscle tone can change, for example, when turning head to the side, it is higher on the side opposite to the turn of the head. Changing tone in the same muscle group called muscular dystonia - this name of mom and dad is often heard at a neurologist's appointment, but you should not be afraid of this, it also quite common in infants. nine0011 By 3.5–4 months, physiological hypertonicity in children weakens, movements become more coordinated, the hand opens, so-called locomotions develop - body movements in which almost all muscle groups are involved. There is no need to treat physiological hypertonicity, but it can be done general strengthening massage, it will contribute to the development of the muscular system and coordination of movements.

The baby constantly makes some movements, they are very chaotic.

Why is this happening? nine0007

A newborn child's nervous system is still immature, which is why he cannot make coordinated movements. nervous the baby's fibers are just beginning to be covered with a special myelin sheath, which is responsible for the speed of transmission of the nerve impulse to muscles. The faster the transfer occurs, the smoother the movements of the crumbs become. In the meantime, the nervous system has not matured, a small child may be in constant motion, which sometimes persists even in a dream. nine0011 How as a rule, chaotic twitches disappear in the second month of life. Then the movements of the arms and legs gradually become more even and orderly.

The baby's arms, legs, chin are trembling - maybe he is cold or has some kind of neurological disease?

Immediately after the birth of the child, a pediatrician must examine every month, and in 1, 3, 6, 12 months - and specialist doctors: neurologist, ophthalmologist, orthopedist. It is they who will reliably assess the condition of the baby and help parents to control his development

Trembling, or tremor, is a physiological phenomenon that occurs in most children in the first 3 months of life. Tremor appears again due to the immaturity of the nervous system. Shivering usually occurs during crying or after some kind of exertion (for example, after bathing), but sometimes it starts quite suddenly, maybe even at rest. With a tremor, a child usually trembles in the chin and lower lip, arms and legs may still tremble. Tremor can be symmetrical (both arms tremble) or asymmetrical, when different parts of the body tremble separately (for example, chin and arms tremble at the same time, or one arm and one leg tremble). As soon as the parents notice that the baby has a tremor (and he may appear not immediately after birth, but even a month later), they are very worried. However, as we said, this is normal occurrence in young children. Nevertheless, it is necessary to pay attention to the following points: physiological tremor does not last long - just a few seconds. ; if the tremor increases, the episodes become more frequent and longer, it is necessary to show the baby to a neurologist. nine0005

The child often shudders and spreads his arms to the sides. Is this normal or should I take my child to the doctor?

This is a manifestation of one of the innate reflexes - the so-called Moro reflex (spreading the hands with subsequent reduction). He lasts up to 4-5 months and usually occurs in response to sharp sounds or when changing body position. Parents call this reflex wince. Moms and dads notice that if you change the position of the baby in space (for example, lift him out of bed, and then put again), the child will throw up the arms slightly bent at the elbows. The same thing can happen with any sharp sound (clap in hands, door knock). Sometimes the Moro reflex occurs spontaneously, that is, the baby throws up his arms without any stimuli. nine0011 All these phenomena are completely normal for young children and do not require any treatment. The only thing to watch out for: the Moro reflex should not become more pronounced; after 4-5 months it should disappear.

The child constantly wants to suckle (pacifier, breast, finger), maybe he is hungry and does not have enough milk?

In children under 1 year old, the sucking reflex is pronounced: any irritation of the lips, tongue, the child makes sucking movements. This the very first and most important unconditioned reflex, it is the ability to suck (and therefore satisfy hunger) that ensures the survival of the baby. nine0012 The sucking reflex completely disappears only by 3-4 years. Even in infants, you can notice the search reflex (it persists up to 2–4 months): when the corner of the mouth is irritated, the baby turns its head in the direction of irritation; proboscis reflex (it can be observed up to 2–3 months): when tapping on the lips, the child stretches his lips with a tube. Before eating, these reflexes appear brighter and are called easier, but by themselves they are not an indicator that the baby is hungry.

The baby spit up a lot, I heard that this may be due to neurological disorders. Is it so? nine0007

Regurgitation is a very common complaint in the first months of life. Most healthy children spit up to 3-5 times a day. For regurgitation of infants is more the norm than a pathology, since the structure and functioning of the gastrointestinal tract in them predispose to vomiting. The stomach of newborns is located horizontally, has a rounded shape and small volume - only 5-10 ml: that's why a few drops of colostrum are enough to just the born baby ate. The entrance to the stomach of the baby is relatively wide, and the sphincter (the muscle that closes the entrance to the stomach) underdeveloped. Therefore, the movement of food through the gastrointestinal tract is somewhat slow. Immaturity of some enzymes and lack of coordination in the processes of breathing, sucking and swallowing, more characteristic of preterm infants and small children also predispose to regurgitation. nine0045 Spitting up can also be associated with overeating, frequent feeding, aerophagy (swallowing air). Yes, they can be a manifestation of some kind of neurological pathology, but this is very rare, especially if there are no other symptoms of the disease.

The baby often "goggles". The doctor said that this is a symptom of Grefe and does not need to be treated. What is this symptom and why does it appear in young children?

Graefe's symptom in infants is a white line that remains between the iris and the upper eyelid when the child looks down. By itself, Graefe's symptom is not indicates the presence of any health problems in children. It is often observed in healthy children with a change in lighting or body position, and also Graefe's symptom may simply be an individual feature of the structure of the baby's eyes (it is often present in children with large eyes). Sometimes this symptom occurs due to the immaturity of the nervous system of the child. In these cases, Graefe's symptom does not need to be treated, it usually disappears during the first 6 months of the baby's life. nine0045 But if, in addition to the Graefe symptom, the child has increased excitability, tremor, strabismus, developmental delay, if he often throws head back - this already indicates that he has neurological problems. For an accurate diagnosis, a series of additional studies: neurosonography, electroencephalography.

A tiny man, barely born, can practically do nothing, his movements are erratic, his hands cannot grab and hold an object and it seems that the only thing the baby does is only eat, sleep and cry. But after a couple of months, he confidently fixes his gaze on the objects and faces around him, can smile in response, and also holds his head well. With every month of life, the child comprehends more and more new horizons in its development - it remains only to patiently wait for this time. nine0005

Dmitry Nikolaevich Smirnov
pediatric neurologist perinatal center GKB 7,
candidate of medical sciences, doctor of the highest category,
assistant of the Department of Neonatology, RMAPE

why this happens and what needs to be done

When parents encounter this phenomenon for the first time, they can 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. nine0005

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 discontent 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. nine0069
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. nine0005

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 turning over on 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. nine0005


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. nine0005

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

A nightmare for parents of babies under 3-4 months of age. 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,
  • apply a clean diaper, ironed with a hot iron,
  • give medicine for colic (only after consulting a doctor!).

If the baby is breast-fed, the mother should take a closer look at 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. nine0005

Other reasons

If the child arches over without showing displeasure, 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 see 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. nine0005

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, you 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. nine0005

Raised intracranial pressure can sometimes be a symptom of a dangerous disease, 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. nine0005

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. nine0005

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 can 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. nine0005


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. nine0005

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 carried out under general anesthesia, so that the child is completely immobile.

Frequently asked questions and answers

Our expert answers readers' frequently asked questions, 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 head tilt be a symptom of a child's vision problems? nine0088

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. nine0005


  1. Age-dependent manifestations of neurosis in children. M.Yu. Bobylova // Pediatric practice. 2007. URL:
  2. Infantile intestinal colic. Modern data. N.I. Ursova // Questions of modern pediatrics. 2011. URL:
  3. Features of the treatment of acute otitis media during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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