Category Archives: Should I be Worried?

You go to place for information about common baby and toddler behaviours and ailments

Why is my baby shaking their head from side to side?

You might be worried that your baby’s head shaking side to side means that something is wrong. You may even be worried this is an early sign of autism. But chances are this is a normal behaviour. If your baby is crying and head shaking many parents become concerned that their baby is sick, hurt, or autistic. But there are lots of good reasons your baby might shake their head from side to side. Even if your baby is crying, it is most likely nothing to worry about.

Does your baby shake their head from side to side while they are breastfeeding?

This is a common time to see a baby shake their head, sometimes they will also grunt and fret. This is the baby trying to latch and find the best position to feed. By moving their head side to side they can ensure they latch onto the nipple correctly. You can help them by encouraging them into the right position and by assisting them to attach well. A very hungry baby will often shake their head a lot while latching in their eagerness and frustration that the milk isn’t flowing yet. Very normal and nothing to worry about!

Does your baby shake their head from side to side while they are trying to go to sleep, or when you notice they are very tired?

Even very young babies can have self settling skills and this may be one of them. The shaking of the head may make baby slightly dizzy and help them fall asleep. It may feel comforting to feel the material rub against their cheeks. It may also be a sign of frustration that they cannot relax and fall asleep as they would like, especially if they are also crying. Very normal and nothing to worry about!

Does your baby sometimes shake their head from side to side when they are playing, or when they are interacting with you?

It’s fun to move your body isn’t it? Your baby doesn’t have a lot of control over their body so when they are having fun they may shake their head with excitement. They are practising new skills all the time and are testing out what their body can do – look I can turn my head to one side, and now I can turn it to the other side! You might notice this during tummy time in particular. If you are turning your head while playing with them they may try to imitate you, the earliest way they know how to communicate with you and join in with your activities. Very normal and nothing to worry about!

What if something is actually wrong?

There are a few reasons why a baby turning their head from side to side may be a cause for concern.

  • Ear Infection or other illness
  • Febrile Seizure
  • Rash/ itch
  • Autism

If your baby has an EAR INFECTION they may find the sensation of a blocked ear canal very uncomfortable. They may turn their head from side to side in an attempt to relieve the pressure or pain. If they feel unwell in general they may turn their head in frustration. If head turning is accompanied by a fever, fluid weeping from the ears, or any other concerning symptoms you might suspect an ear infection and should visit a doctor.

Sometimes if your baby has a sudden rise in temperature they may experience a FEBRILE SEIZURE or convulsion. While this is not uncommon or life threatening it can be very scary. In this instance your baby would not just shake their head, their entire body would go stiff and jerk and they may lose consciousness. Don’t panic! These kinds of seizures are not harmful and do not cause brain damage. Keep them on a soft surface and wait until it’s finished then seek medical attention from your GP or hospital to confirm your child is well and safe and to identify any underlying illness.

You may have noticed any redness or dryness or a rash on your baby, especially on their face, they may be turning their head from side to side in an attempt to itch. Young babies with limited control over their arms and hands will be particularly vulnerable to an itch they cannot scratch.Babies with parents who have ECZEMA or asthma or other allergies are more likely to have eczema and itchy skin themselves. Keep baby’s skin moisturised and watch for irritation. If you see a spreading rash take your baby to the doctor to rule out any illnesses.

When you see your baby shaking their head from side to side you may think of stimming and other repetitive behaviours that you’ve heard are sign of AUTISM. Head shaking on its own, however, is not usually a sign your child is autistic. So long as your child makes eye contact with you, smiles (if they are older than about 8 weeks), makes gestures such as pointing or waving and imitates you (if they are older than about 9 months) it is unlikely they are autistic and more likely they are displaying one of the very normal head shaking behaviours. If you are concerned your baby’s head shaking from side to side is excessive and/or you feel they are not meeting other milestones and not engaging with you by making eye contact, smiling or gesturing then you are wise to seek the advice of your doctor. Early diagnosis of autism is becoming more possible and early intervention can help an autistic child to thrive.

so….. should you be worried?

Probably not.

A baby shaking their head from side to is very normal and common. It’s usually a way for them to share something with you, to let you know they are hungry or tired or happy and excited. It is often fun for them and interesting to experiment with their bodies. It may be a way for them to tell you when they are uncomfortable and to try and communicate with you. Babies turn their heads from side to side for lots of reasons and most of the time it is nothing to worry about at all!

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Teeth Grinding: Is that normal?

A young boy after losing two baby teeth, exfol...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Welcome to the first post in the new series, “Should I be worried?” – your go-to-place for a quick reference about a variety of common infant and toddler behaviours and ailments.

As many as a third of young children will grind and click their teeth. The habit can emerge as young as 8 months, around the time the front teeth come in. The sound of your child grinding her teeth will most likely set your own on edge. It’s surprisingly loud, disconcertingly abrasive, and can have you asking, “Is this normal?”

Should I be worried about my baby or toddler’s teeth grinding?

No, there’s no need to worry. Not only is this a common practise in young children, it’s also a harmless one. Teething grinding, or Bruxism as it’s technically called, will not ruin your baby’s teeth. 

Though some slight wearing of the teeth can occur, it won’t be enough to seriously damage them, and certainly not enough to cause pain. Baby teeth have fewer developed nerves and less fully developed roots, and so are not as sensitive as adult teeth. Your baby can probably only feel a rubbing sensation from the action. 

Why do children grind their teeth?

There are several reasons your child may be grinding her teeth. The habit usually begins with teething, so it may be that the rubbing helps alleviate pain and discomfort. The sound and sensation can also be soothing to your child. Similar to head banging or rocking, children find a rhythmic motion, feeling, or sound comforting when they are anxious or tired; self soothing is valuable skill and not a sign your child is unhappy.

Most likely, however, the grinding is a natural and healthy learning process that goes hand in hand with new teeth. Your child is exploring her mouth and teeth and discovering what they do, how they feel, and what noises they can make. Even though the sound is horrible to you, it is interesting to your child.

Should I do anything about it?

This, too, shall pass. Your child will likely grow bored of grinding her teeth during the day and grow out of grinding them at night. The habit is best ignored or discouraged with distraction.

If your child is still grinding her teeth regularly after all her baby teeth have come in, this may be the time to see a dentist and check for excessive wear. Even then, it is unlikely that your child’s grinding is a problem and probable that she will grow out of the behaviour by the time she is about 6 years old.

Does your child grind their teeth?

What have you done about it?

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#5. Top 10 things you don’t need for your baby.

If you are using bottles to feed your baby you may want to warm them. There’s no reason why you need to; many babies happily take room-temperature or even cold formula, expressed breast milk (EBM), and water. But if warm the milk you must, there’s no need to buy an electric bottle warmer.

#5 Thing you’d be wasting your money on: A Bottle Warmer.

In the ‘olden days’ bottles would be warmed by sitting in a pan of warming water. After a few minutes the contents of the bottle is tested, usually on the wrist ( a very sensitive place where you’ll be acutely aware of the heat), and then given to the baby. In the 70s and 80s microwave ovens became increasingly common in homes. With them came both excitement at the prospect of fast heating and concern about the heating method; a polarity that continues today.

Why some people chose a Bottle Warmer:

Some families have generalised concerns about the microwave. There are sometimes fears about radiation leakage, chemical leach from plastics, super heating, uneven heating, nutrient break down, and more. Several of these fears have little to no basis in science, but can be hard to dispel. The introduction of bottle warmers to the market allowed anyone who worried about a microwave, but who didn’t want to heat water in a pan, to find what seemed like a middle ground; faster, safer heating. Talk of the chemical BPA being found in some plastics – a chemical which was shown to interfere with human hormones and which is activated by heat – seemed to solidify the argument for the bottle warmer.

How a Bottle Warmer Works:

The electric bottle warmer works by agitating water molecules, causing them to heat up.

How a Microwave Works:

A microwave works by agitating water molecules, causing them to heat up.

The only difference is that the microwave heats the water or formula inside the bottle directly,and the bottle warmer heats a reservoir of water outside the bottle which then transfers through the bottle into the contents inside.

The arguments against the microwave:

Despite the fact that the bottle warmer, the microwave (and water in a pan for that matter) all essentially heat in the same way, there obviously are some concerns specific to the microwave.

– The microwaves are harmful and could leak and irradiate us all. FALSE.

This is a classic case of fear of the unknown. Micro-waves (not the machine, the thingos you were worried about) are a kind of radiation akin to radio or infrared, Unless you fear your baby being near a radio then any fear of the microwave is overblown.

BPA can leach out of the bottle and into the milk. FALSE

because those clever bottle manufactures stopped using BPA. All the brands I’ve ever seen used (Avent, Medela, Tommee Tippee, Nuby, Cherub Baby, Pigeon, Dr Brown, Even Flow) offer BPA-free plastic and glass baby bottles. All plastics do degrade over time, so regardless of how you use them, old and cloudy plastic bottles should be discarded.

Microwaving the formula or EBM causes it to lose nutritional value. FALSE.

All heating and cooking has an effect on the structure of our food and drink (sometimes beneficially, sometimes not) but microwaves have no more effect than any other method of heating. In fact it may help many things retain their nutritional value as the heating time is less.

Things heated in a microwave do so unevenly, leaving super hot spots.

Now this one is true, but, how this affects heating a baby bottle needs more explanation. The microwaves are agitating the water molecules, right? That’s why some food gets hot in some spots and cool in others; different amounts of water generating different amounts of heat. If you are heating a bottle of just water in the microwave it is all heated at the same rate, without hot spots. If you heat EBM or formula, all that is needed is to shake or swirl the contents of the bottle thoroughly to evenly distribute the heat. You’ll be testing it for the correct temperature before offering it to your baby anyway, right?

Still not convinced about the microwave?

Never mind, it’s perfectly fine not to use the microwave and yet still not need to buy that bottle warmer. The bottle warmer is simply heating water around the outside of the bottle. That’s better than the water in the pan, how exactly? It’s literally no less work; put water in pan/bottle warmer, place bottle in pan/bottle warmer, turn on heat under pan/turn on bottle warmer, wait a few mins, test bottle for correct temperature, give to baby. Or how about, run hot tap water around the outside of the bottle for a minute? Sit bottle in a jug of hot water? The only benefit is a timer, meaning you can forget about it and it will turn off. While this can be useful – is it worth the $50-$80 a warmer will cost you?

Do you really need to heat the milk at all?

The simple answer is No. Because breast milk is at body-temperature one assumes that babies are used to drinking all their milk warm. But it doesn’t follow that they need it that way, or even that they would be unhappy with a different temperature. It won’t be long before they’re drinking room-temperature or cooled water, eating foods that are cold and hot, and drinking cow’s milk straight from the fridge. It’s not harmful or mean to start getting your baby used to room-temperature bottles from very early on. They’ll find it easier to enjoy foods of different temperatures later, and transition to cold cow’s milk much easier. And it’s more convenient and flexible for you both at home and out and about.

Photo by Jens Johnsson on Unsplash

My recommendations:

Personally, I’m comfortable using BPA-free baby bottles in the microwave (this goes for sterilisers too).

  • Heat the water/formula/EBM in the bottle with the lid and teat off (to avoid steam build up in the teat).
  • Get to know your microwave and how long you need. Always underestimate when using an unfamiliar microwave.
  • If heating formula or EBM shake or swirl bottle well after heating to evenly distribute heat.
  • Test the temperature of the milk on the inside of your wrist before giving it to your baby.
  • Try offering your baby room-temperature bottles before assuming he won’t like it. If he does prefer warm, try lowering the temperature to room-temperature slowly over a period of time.

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