Has your baby been arching their back or has been throwing their head back lately? Are you afraid that your baby may be hurting themselves as they do so? We understand that as a new parent, you must be concerned about everything that is related to your baby. It is important to say that a baby arching back is dangerous since it can hurt them in various ways. But you do not have to worry. This is why we have brought to you a guide on why your baby might be arching their back and what you can do about it. Read on to know more.
6 Reasons why your Baby is Arching Back
1. Baby Tantrums
Babies throw tantrums. A lot of tantrums. And they do so in so many ways. Arching their back can be one of them. Your baby may also throw their head backwards along with arching their back. What can they be possibly throwing a tantrum for? Anything! They may be hungry or full, sleepy or too energetic.
All babies throw tantrums, and at any time. They could be sitting in your lap or sleeping or just sitting. You may even notice your baby arching back when feeding, which could mean they are full and wish to stop. They may even cry while arching their back. It is not a problem that they’re throwing tantrums. The fact that they are arching their backs while doing so is the thing to be concerned about. That is because they can end up hurting themselves.
2. Trying to Communicate
This is the simplest and yet the most probable reason why your baby might be arching their back! Infants can not talk and communicate like us adults can. Nor have they understood the world like us. So they try to communicate in whatever way they can. And they could be arching their back while doing so too, mostly when they’re uncomfortable. Or sad, upset and even hungry. And now you know what to do next, attend to them. It could be feeding, distracting them, repositioning them, or changing their diapers. The arching should stop after this.
3. Rollover attempts
This is something you will find adorable. Your baby is learning new things and is growing into a stronger baby. They are building stronger back as well as neck muscles. They are also getting used to lying on their tummy. And in the process, they learn to lift their head and try various methods of making different movements.
They will explore more on the better positions they are comfortable in, and they will not be dependent on you for that very soon! If this is the reason why your baby has been arching their back, you may notice them wiggle more muscles as they do so.
Even though this is still a reason you don’t need to be extremely worried over, you still need to have a clear understanding of colic. Colic is much like your baby having gas. Large amounts of gas is the reason for the colic in babies. But colic can also bring other problems with itself as well such as indigestion, discomfort or GBS. This can be extremely frustrating for the baby as well as for you.
It is due to this discomfort that your baby may be arching their back. The main cause of colic is the going of air in the food canal along with the milk while the baby is being bottle fed. Therefore, you need to make sure that your baby doesn’t intake a lot of gas while feeding or else you can choose anti colic bottles for feeding your baby.
This is another digestion related situation that may be leading your baby to arch their back. Acid Reflux in the simplest terms is upward movement of stomach contents via esophageal sphincter and ends up entering the esophagus because of the weak stomach muscles.
Clinically, acid reflux is known as gastro-oesophageal reflux. This causes discomfort to your baby, leading them to arch their back. They will mostly do it during feeding and might even be vomiting the milk. This is very common and nothing to be worried about. You need to avoid this by making them sit or lie in such a way that the reflux ceases.
6. Startle Reflex
Okay, this one is easy. The Startle reflex is also known as the Moro Reflex. This reflex refers to your baby getting startled all of a sudden, loud voice or when they feel like they may fall or if they are moved suddenly. During this, your baby may arch their back reflex seem harmless, but if your baby gets startled often, it may hurt themselves.
But this also means that you can be relieved that your newborn arching back is not going to have any serious implications. If this is the reason for your baby’s back arching, you may observe it to be accompanied by straightening legs, jerking backwards and even throwing their arms. You do not have to worry since this ends by the time your baby is three months old.
Serious Reasons Why Your Baby Could Be Arching Their Back
1. Rumination Disorder
Rumination Disorder refers to a situation when a newborn baby regurgitates the swallowed food and then chews it. They may swallow it again or spit it out. Babies tend to arch their backs while doing so along with making a suction motion using their lips and pull their heads back while trying to bring up the food that they had swallowed. This is classified as an eating disorder and cause physical illness, stress, and even neurodevelopmental disorders to your child.
Your child might go through weight loss, tooth decay and chapped lips. You should be aware that this is common in most babies and eventually grow out of it. However, to get more tips on how to support your baby, you may want to consult a doctor. In the following paragraphs, we have also discussed whether you need to consult a doctor or not.
Before you start getting worried after reading the headline as seizures, we would like to inform you that seizures in babies are not like those in adults. Nor are they an equivalent for epilepsy in any way. Seizures in babies refers to seizure-like movements, and it can last for a few seconds. Your baby may act very quiet or very stiff suddenly they might still move their hands by rotating their wrists.
Babies tend to arch their back when they’re going through something that seems like a seizure. This can happen to your baby at any time but is most prevalent when your baby is just about to sleep. Seizures in newborn babies are not very common but can happen since the baby’s brain is still growing, and there might be a case of nerves getting their wires crossed. It can also be genetic. Such baby seizures can stop completely by the time a baby turns 7 or 8 months old.
3. Cerebral Palsy
To put it in the simplest terms, cerebral palsy is a disorder that affects a person’s ability to control their movements which can be caused due to brain damage during pregnancy or in their infant age. We again ask you to calm down before you read ahead. We understand that reading about cerebral palsy under an article about your baby arching back can sound automatic. However, we need to be practical as well. If you observe that your baby has repeatedly been arching their back and does not seem to control it, cerebral palsy can be a cause.
You may also notice your baby’s legs stretching out and the arms bending in such cases. These movements are normal in babies and should be gone within the first few months of their life. However, if they seem to be persistent even later, a neurological disorder can be a possibility.
4. Sandifer Syndrome
Sandifer syndrome is one of the least known conditions and is also confused with various other conditions. This condition is associated with Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD). And this is seen to start in babies and toddlers. This is actually a rare movement condition which goes away after the baby has been treated for GERD. Sometimes it goes away with time as well.
This syndrome can cause back arching in the babies, which can last for as long as 3 minutes in a frozen kind. Some people may even mistake it for being a baby seizure. This can happen for as many as 10 times in one day with the baby, mostly after having the meal. Back arching during Sandifer syndrome can also be accompanied by eye movements problems, stretching their legs out, vomiting, and nodding head movements.
5. Infantile Spasms
This is another highly unlikely but not negligible reason why your baby might be arching his back. Infantile spasm is also known as West syndrome. It is a form of epilepsy. However, this is a very rare illness, and therefore you should not be jumping to any conclusions right after reading this. Infant Spasm syndrome can be diagnosed with a brain waves scan and later be treated. Search seizures are brief and usually happen in the morning right after your baby has woken up.
What to do when the Baby is Arching Back?
If your baby’s arching their back and you are worried about it, there is certainly something that you can do to stop that back arch immediately. You can do these whether the baby arch is due to a serious reason or just their tantrum. And the first step in doing so is to calm your self down. You do not need to panic. After all, you will be able to help your baby calm down only after you are relaxed.
Basically, there are three things that you can try. You can try to take your baby to a quiet place and help them settle down and comfort them. Comforting your baby by turning down the lights, humming them a soft song and cradling them will ease out the baby arch.
After this, you can try to cuddle your baby since cuddling helps release oxytocin, a hormone related to feeling bonded and happy both for mum and the baby. It also helps in stabilizing the heart rate. These two are the best ways to help your baby when they are arching their back. But if these do not help the next simplest option is to distract them. Distraction can be in any form– maybe a soft toy or a silly face or you taking them for a walk and showing around.
Should you call the Doctor?
It is suggested that you try to call the baby down before you think about anything else. The tricks mentioned above should turn out to be beneficial in helping your baby to relax and get relieved from any underlying issue that might be causing them to ask their back. However, if you think that your baby’s frequency arching their back is too high and you suspect that it could be something serious, you must consult a doctor.
We suggest that you consult a pediatrician since they might be able to zero down to the cause and then provide advice, medications, and treatments if needed properly. A good practice is to observe and note down your experience before you consult a doctor. You might want to click a few pictures or videos of your baby when they are arching their back and the list of things you have tried to help your baby. After this, you may even ask them the questions that you have.
In conclusion, we would like to mention that your baby arching back and crying can most probably be harmless and nothing to be worried about. But if this goes on for long and you observe other symptoms of some serious conditions, you must consult a doctor as soon as you can. Whatever the case be, you must stay calm and relaxed and try to soothe your baby as much as you can. Additionally, you must look for all symptoms before jumping onto any conclusions. We hope that our guide helped you to gain some clarity over the topic. Happy Parenting!
Laura is a trained primary teacher who takes a profound liking in interacting with and bringing out the best in children. She is also an ISSA certified pediatrician with an extensive practice of over 12 years. Laura comprehends the needs of infants and now compresses her expertise into writing thorough parenting guides to aid new parents.