When my daughter was six months old, she started shaking her head like she was saying “no”.
She would smile and laugh while she did it, so I’d do it too and tell her that she was saying, “No no no!”
Baby head-shaking is usually considered normal behavior, and the video below shows a good example of what you might be experiencing.
Does this look like your child? If so, there’s probably no reason to worry about it.
There are several reasons a baby might shake their head:
- Mimicking you. As babies get older and start to take interest in the fascinating world around them, they start to mimic everything we do. It’s possible they saw you shake your head while talking to them and they’re just mimicking you. If your baby does it while talking to them, there’s a good sign that your little one is starting to take after you.
- Learning to breastfeed. As baby learns to breastfeed, your child might shake their head as they’re learning to latch on. Sometimes they might even do it as a way to show excitement during this time, or at the end of feeding to signal that they’re full.
- Learning to control their bodies. This is the most common reason a baby will shake their head. As the child explores their body and is constantly learning new things, they realize that it can be fun to shake their head back and forth.
- Self-soothing when sleepy. Some babies elicit this behavior when they’re tired, and it helps calm them down and get them ready for sleep. This is also considered normal behavior.
- Possible autism spectrum. There are many symptoms of autism, and head-shaking is just one of them, so it should only be concerning if your baby shakes his head and displays other indications in alignment with autism. If you are concerned this may be a possibility, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor immediately.
Possible signs of autism.
If your baby shakes his head and has no other unusual behaviors but seems otherwise completely normal, there should be no cause for concern.
However, if your baby shows any of the following signs, you should contact your doctor immediately, as these could be indicators of a neurological or developmental disorder:
- Doesn’t interact well with parents or siblings, doesn’t respond to his name, your voice or other sounds, and doesn’t smile or show interest, or has an unusual gaze;
- Doesn’t communicate well, is uncoordinated when trying to communicate nonverbally, or doesn’t use or show gestures to attempt communication;
- Repeats behaviors or movements obsessively and doesn’t seem interested in learning new things;
- Loses previously acquired skills and regresses when 19-21 months old, such as losing language, comprehension, words, social interaction, interest in people, eye contact, and interactive games.
- Doesn’t make eye contact and doesn’t seem to look at you, but through you;
- Bangs head on crib, wall, or with fists, developing bumps or bald spots and seems to want to hurt themselves;
- Head shaking increases during moments of anxiety and happens frequently or lasts a long time; or
- Does not reach developmental milestones as outlined by your doctor.
If your baby is shaking their head side to side, it’s not likely that you have anything to worry about.
If you suspect that there might be something else going on besides normal development, please seek the opinion of your pediatrician.
It’s always a great idea to check with a doctor to give yourself the peace of mind in knowing that your little one is happy, healthy and totally normal, too.
Do you have any experience or questions with baby head shaking? If so, please let us know in the comments below!