Why does my baby arch his 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!
related baby tool
Keep an eye on your baby’s average growth by tracking height, weight, and head circumference with our simple tool.
Fill out your baby's details*:
What is your child*
This is a mandatory field.
Age (between 0 and 24 months)
This is a mandatory field.
This is a mandatory field.
This is a mandatory field.
Head circumference (in.)
This is a mandatory field.
*Input details of your baby’s last measurements. **Source: World Health Organization
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!
Why Do Babies Arch Their Backs?
Written by WebMD Editorial Contributors
In this Article
- Understanding Newborn Communication
- Signs of Colic
- Signs of Reflux
- Signs of Cerebral Palsy
If you've noticed your baby arching their back while nursing, taking a bottle, or crying, you may feel concerned about the behavior. While it's a normal response for your baby, back arching may indicate a health condition that needs to be addressed.
Understanding Newborn Communication
Your baby can't communicate using words, so they often use body language instead. You may think that your baby is communicating dislike of something by arching their back, and sometimes they are. You may notice your baby's back arched when they seem hungry, frustrated, or are in pain. This natural response usually goes away at around nine months when your baby begins to communicate in new ways.
But an arched back might also be a sign of a health condition. If you notice back arching a few times, it's not a major worry. If your baby arches their back frequently, talk to your pediatrician about potential developmental concerns. As your baby grows, understand the reasons for back arching so that you can identify accompanying symptoms that may point to a health condition or developmental delays.
Signs of Colic
Your baby may arch their back if they suffer from colic, a health condition affecting as many as one in five babies during the first three months of life. Usually, you can determine why your baby's crying or upset. With colic, you may feed your baby, check their diaper, burp them, and they'll still keep crying. If your baby does have colic, you'll begin to notice a distinguishable pattern of crying.
Don't worry too much about colic. While it may cause distress for both you and your baby, colicky babies are otherwise healthy. They grow and develop as you would expect. A colicky baby is usually happier during the day, with fussiness getting worse toward the evening and night. Colic crying may last for several hours before your baby tires and falls asleep. Signs that your baby has colic include:
- Having a high-pitched cry
- Crying that sounds like screaming
- Being difficult to soothe
- Inability to calm down
- Having their face turn red while their lips remain pale
- Bending knees up, stiffening arms, arching back, or clenching fists
Signs of Reflux
Reflux happens when your baby spits up frequently. This occurs because food moves back up instead of going further through the digestive tract. It's common for babies to spit up several times a day in the first months of life. As long as your baby is growing and developing, it isn't a major concern.
If reflux extends beyond the first few months of life or is persistent, it's called gastroesophageal reflux (GER). Even though it may be concerning, this condition is not serious and usually becomes less intense as your baby grows, ending at around 18 months.
But if your baby is unusually fussy, isn't gaining weight, or shows other symptoms that worry you, talk to your doctor. It may be caused by an allergy, intestinal blockage, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
Signs of Cerebral Palsy
If your baby arches their back frequently without a clear reason, like in their sleep, it may be a sign of cerebral palsy. This condition affects your child’s ability to control and coordinate their muscles, impacting overall movement. Infants with cerebral palsy may also have intellectual disabilities, seizures, and difficulties with vision and hearing.
Other signs of cerebral palsy in infants include:
- Developmental delays – Your baby may not meet milestones as expected. These include sitting up, rolling over, crawling, and walking. As your infant becomes a toddler, they may not talk as early as babies the same age.
- Low muscle tone – Your baby may seem floppy or weak with bad posture. Your baby may not hold their head up independently as expected, and their arms and legs may be very flexible.
- Increased muscle tone – Babies with stronger muscle tone tend to arch their back and stiffen their arms and legs. Instead of seeming floppy, your baby may seem excessively rigid and inflexible.
- Trouble speaking and swallowing – When it’s time to begin introducing solid food, your baby may not have proper mechanics for moving food to the back of the mouth to swallow. Your baby may also drool longer and have trouble controlling their tongue and mouth.
- Using one side of the body – When your baby begins to sit up, play, and crawl, they may show severe preference to one side of their body. They may reach with only one hand and crawl with one side. Once they begin to walk, they may have a limp.
Signs of cerebral palsy often become more obvious with age. If you identify the health condition sooner, it may lead to better outcomes later on in life. Treatment options for cerebral palsy include medication, therapy, and possibly surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.
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. nine0003
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;
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. nine0003
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. nine0003
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. nine0003
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. nine0003
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.
What temperature should be brought down in a child under one year old? nine0003
Moms often wonder when it is right to bring down the temperature in babies, because there is more than one opinion of doctors on this matter, which cannot but cause concern for parents who are trying to find the right answer to this rather urgent problem.
Why does the baby spit up after feeding?
Young children often spit up after feeding. This can be due to a number of reasons, in most cases physiological, and over time this problem goes away. Further in our article, you can find out why the child is spitting up, and in what cases he needs help. nine0003
Muscle hypertonicity in a child at 3 months
Muscle hypertonicity at birth and up to 3 months is an absolutely physiological process, and then, little by little, the arms and legs of the crumbs begin to relax. The pediatrician clearly monitors this on monthly rounds. If this does not happen, the doctor will suspect a distortion of muscle tone in the child.
Constipation in a month old baby - what to do?nine0002 Difficulties in the work of the digestive system can be experienced by everyone. Not to mention a month-old child, whose gastrointestinal tract is only learning to work properly and populates a sterile organism with bacteria. Next, we will talk about constipation in crumbs.
why a newborn is worried when sucking
No mother can boast that her baby always sucks calmly at the breast. Everyone has experienced that the baby cries during feeding. He freaks out, arches, behaves restlessly. Most often, this behavior is due to growing up and the desire to learn about the world. Sometimes the cause is in infantile colic and diseases. Sometimes elevated intracranial pressure and other neurological problems are to blame. It is difficult for a mother to independently determine what caused the baby's anxiety at the breast. According to accompanying signs, a woman can only suspect one or another condition. nineOl000 common mistake moms make. Therefore, if a woman is going to breastfeed for the first time, it is necessary to learn the basics of successful breastfeeding.
In case of improper attachment, the baby does not completely capture the halo. The baby sucks only the nipple, which leads to the following:
- the breast is not completely emptied, the illusion of lack of milk is created;
- the fluid flow is large and the newborn cannot cope with it and chokes;
- a woman develops cracks and bruises on her nipples;
- Mom experiences discomfort and even pain during feeding.
A characteristic sign of improper attachment is that during suckling, the baby arches its back and throws back its head. By these actions, the baby shows his protest. Reasons for improper attachment:
- flat or inverted nipples;
- use of nipples and bottles from the first days of a baby's life;
- short bridle;
- neurological problems.
Every mother can breastfeed. To do this, you need to learn how to apply the baby correctly. With the correct position, the baby completely captures the halo, and its lower lip is turned outward. If the grip is incorrect, you need to carefully remove the nipple from the mouth (to do this, gently insert your finger into the corner of the child's mouth) and give it in a different way. nine0003
At the age of 2-3 months, the child understands that he is a separate person. The kid is actively moving his arms and legs, trying to explore the world. Some three-month-old babies no longer like that their mother presses her head with her hand during feeding. The baby arches, pushes off and blushes.
In this situation, other feeding positions should be tried. For example, put the baby on the bed and lie down next to him. This position will also take the pressure off your hands and make it easier for mom. nine0003
If a newborn begins to throw his head back and resent sucking from the breast after a bottle, then he simply felt the difference. The liquid from the bottle flows easily, but it has to be extracted from the chest. Therefore, often with mixed feeding, children prefer a plastic accessory and refuse breastfeeding.
To avoid this problem, it is necessary to completely switch to breastfeeding. If there are difficulties, you should take the advice of consultants on breastfeeding. nine0003
Lack of milk
If the child does not have enough milk, then he begins to tantrum at the breast. The baby makes a row because he does not get the right amount of food and remains hungry. Many women who have babies crying and arching during feeding do not understand the true causes of restless behavior and supplement with formula. This is a big mistake, because "psychos" due to lack of milk are rare, usually the reason is different.
A real shortage of milk occurs in women with stress, overwork, the use of certain drugs, and also due to endocrine disorders. No more than 5% of nursing mothers face such a problem. Most often, the lack of milk is far-fetched. To determine that the child has enough nutrition, you can use the wet diaper test. nine0003
During the day, the baby urinates about 12 times. If the number of wet diapers is less than 10, then there is not enough milk. It is also important to look at weight gain and height.
A temporary lack of milk occurs during a lactation crisis. The baby in the first year of life is actively growing. Every day he eats more and more milk. If in the first days 20-30 ml is enough to saturate, then by the end of the first month for one feeding, the baby is able to suck out 120 ml.
The baby's need for milk increases in leaps and bounds. It happens that yesterday the child ate less, and today he needs more. The female breast is not able to instantly increase the production of baby food, so this process occurs gradually. During the period of the lactation crisis, the baby may make a fuss at the breast, but after 1-2 days his discontent passes without a trace.
“Tasteless” milk due to foods eaten by the mother
The components of breast milk depend on the blood composition of the nursing mother. Therefore, almost all mother's dishes can affect the composition of baby food. Breastfeeding mothers need a varied, healthy diet. nine0003
Some foods affect the taste of breast milk. Therefore, after certain dishes, the child becomes capricious, he freaks out and arches during breastfeeding. "Spoil" the taste of milk can:
- smoked products;
- fatty meats;
- canned foods;
- coffee and cocoa.
There is no need to follow a strict diet while breastfeeding. All products are allowed, except for harmful ones. It is important to observe the measure, since even safe fruits and vegetables in large quantities negatively affect the well-being of the child. nine0003
Increased gas formation in the tummy is a common cause that causes a newborn baby to grunt, arch and scream during breastfeeding. Colic occurs in almost all babies under the age of 4-6 months. The cause of flatulence is the imperfect work of the digestive tract.
All babies are born with sterile intestines. Gradually, the digestive tract is populated by beneficial microorganisms. Helps in this successful GV. In 99% of babies, colic periodically recurs in the first months of life. Another cause of flatulence is considered to be improper attachment to the chest, in which the baby swallows air. nine0003
Colic affects babies in different ways. Some babies begin to cry hysterically, while others simply tighten their legs and grunt. However, almost all children with colic behave restlessly at the chest.
To improve the well-being of the baby with colic will help:
- light massage of the tummy;
- a warm diaper or heating pad applied to the abdomen;
- herbal teas based on fennel for infants;
- carminatives prescribed by a doctor; nine0010
- well-established breastfeeding (correct attachment, feeding on demand, avoiding bottles and supplements).
Pain in the mouth or throat
During illness, the child arches and is nervous at the chest. The reason is that it hurts the baby to eat.
- With pharyngitis and tonsillitis, the peripharyngeal ring with tonsils becomes inflamed. The mucosa swells and turns red. When swallowing, the child experiences pain, so he often behaves restlessly at the chest. nine0010
- With thrush and stomatitis, the oral mucosa is affected. Inflamed ulcers appear on the inner surface of the cheeks and tongue. Milk gets into these areas and causes a burning sensation.
Pain in the mouth or throat occurs during sucking. Therefore, at first the baby with appetite is applied to the mother's breast, but after a few seconds it begins to grunt and arch. The baby wants to eat, but cannot because of discomfort.
Only a pediatrician can help the child in this case. The doctor will prescribe treatment depending on the disease. During therapy, the baby can still freak out and worry at the breast, but after a few days his condition will improve. nine0003
Children begin to throw their heads back during breastfeeding with neurological problems. It is difficult to determine them on your own, since most mothers do not understand the signs of neurological disorders. Therefore, it is necessary to be regularly examined and observed by a neurologist.
For the first time, the baby is examined at the maternity hospital, and the next visit is scheduled to a neurologist in a children's clinic in a month. During the examination, the baby is given an ultrasound of the brain, check reflexes.