Baby Shaking Head Side to Side: Causes & When to Seek Help

May 15, 2023
Tripti Mohan – May 15, 2023
Baby Head Shaking side to side.png

Watching your little one reach developmental milestones and learn from its surroundings is one of…

Watching your little one reach developmental milestones and learn from its surroundings is one of the greatest pleasures of parenthood. You may be observing their tiniest movements or expressions at this point. Every day you notice a change in your baby. Is your baby shaking its head from side to side? Is it normal for children?

The simple answer is -Yes, more often than not, it is normal for babies to shake their heads and make movements. Moving hands and legs, shaking their head, and making sounds are all ways of exploring their bodies and surroundings. Or they may be simply imitating you. But, there are times when shaking the head is a sign of seizures or baby syndrome. Let’s talk about this in detail.

Understanding Baby Head Shaking

By the end of 1st month, your baby has most likely had enough of just sleeping and feeding. They want to be more active, interact with you and tell you as soon as possible that they love you. Jokes aside, they are in a stage where their gross motor skills are developing.

Understanding babies head shaking

Normal Head Shaking in Babies

The babies are exploring their muscles and body parts and learning how to use them. This stage is from around 2 months until they are 2 years old. Everything from lifting their hands, touching their face, turning around, trying to sit, etc., are part of this development. Shaking their head is also a normal activity like the others. Here are some situations where head shaking is normal.

  • When they are playing: Shaking their head is just a part of that playing. You need not be concerned.
  • When Nursing: They may be trying to latch. They would just need additional support at this point.
  • When Anxious: The babies might rock or shake their heads from side to side to soothe themselves. This is really a good sign of development because the child is trying to manage their own situation.
  • When listening to the sounds– They probably want to run to the door when Daddy rings the bell, but all they manage to do is shake their head. That’s just cute. They might be responding to music or any other sound that they are hearing.
  • When testing their limits: They are probably just checking how much more they can shake their head since they did it the last couple of hours ago. They are experimenting with their neck muscles. That’s all. 
  • When they want to communicate: As we said earlier, maybe they are in a hurry to express their love or want to express that they don’t like something. Trust your parental instincts at this point to understand what it could be.

So are we saying that head shaking in babies is never a reason for concern? No, sometimes it could indicate a serious condition such as baby syndrome or seizures in children.

New Born is Baby crying

When to be Concerned About Head Shaking in Babies?

If your baby shakes his head very often or bangs it so hard that he gets hurt, you may need to pay more attention. Also, if you see your baby crying while shaking their head, it could mean that the baby has some discomfort. In some cases, the baby may not be making eye contact with you or not responding to any noise, or the baby might have a fever. In any of these cases, or if you just feel that the child looks uncomfortable, take advice from a doctor as soon as possible.

Possible Causes of Excessive Head Shaking

Causes for head shaking your baby
  • Ear Infection: This is one of the most common reasons. Many infants are likely to have ear infections at an early stage. A pain or fluid flowing could be the reason for the baby’s discomfort and excessive head shaking.
  • Autism: Head shaking is not an exclusive sign of autism. If you notice that the baby has not achieved their developmental milestones or finds it hard to keep eye contact, it could be autism. Some other symptoms can be unresponsive to sound, blank eyes, repetitive or obsessive behavior, and regression of skills that the baby had once learned.
  • Neurological Disorders: Certain neurological disorders such as epilepsy, may cause babies to shake their heads excessively. These children would have developmental issues relating to speech, response, behavior, etc.

These causes are serious and hence would require immediate attention from your pediatrician.

How to Help a Baby with Excessive Head Shaking?

A playful head shaking could simply be a response to the music in a baby’s head. If it doesn’t seem like a normal action, you may try some of these:

Tips to understand why a baby is shaking its head from side to side
  • Give them undivided attention. Chances are, they are shaking their head simply for attention.
  • If there is some kind of noise or sound in the room, move away and take the baby to a different environment.
  • If the head shaking is in, frequent intervals, notice the time gap and any other noise or activity that might be happening around the same time.
  • Give them a nice massage on their head and body. They might be just anxious as they are unable to sleep. A head and body massage will be helpful in this case.
  • In case the comforting methods mentioned here are not working, do not hesitate to talk to the Doctor.

Summing up…

Normally, a baby shaking its head from side to side is not something to be worried about. If you notice that the baby has a fever, is unresponsive, or is crying excessively, it is best to seek advice from an expert. Most conditions in babies are manageable if they are recognized at an early stage. Therefore, whether you like it or not, as the primary caretaker, you should be vigilant and attentive to your baby’s needs.


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