For a first-time mother, it is difficult to understand their baby’s traits and their behaviors. During the first year of their life, they go through various milestones related to motor skills and reflexes. 

It might scare a parent when they see their baby shaking head side to side. They might feel something has gone wrong with their baby. It might even seem like they are not grown enough to shake their head. 

It is not a very rare sight when a baby shakes their head from side to side. They might be responding to some questions or trying to communicate in some way. This is a common sight among infants, but this could also happen because of some developmental leaps or neurological problems. Let’s learn what are the possible reasons why a baby shakes their head from side to side.

Causes of Baby Shaking Head Side to Side

Causes of Baby shaking head side to side

Here in this article, we are going to discuss the basic reasons why a baby shakes their head from side to side. If you notice that your baby is healthy and happy while they are doing it, then there should not be any cause for concern, but sometimes this could be a sign of something else. Some more underlying issues could be happening.

Developing Motor Skills

It is a big milestone for a baby when they gain control over their head. Mostly, when a baby gets about two months old, they start to respond to sounds by turning towards it. They gain more control over their head and tries to lift them when they are almost four months of age. 

Developing motor skills

This is the time when parents start noticing that their baby shaking head side to side. It might seem a bit jerky at the moment, as they are just developing coordination and muscle control. This is one of the most obvious reasons why your baby is shaking their head from side to side.


Baby often shakes head from side to side when they are trying to self-soothe them. This could be something they do naturally to get them to sleep. This might often be noticed when they are going to bed or right before they fall asleep.


Leah Alexander, FAAP, MD, a certified pediatrician from New Jersey, says, “If your baby starts shaking their head from side to side, it may be a sign that they are anxious, overstimulated, or trying to fall asleep. Self-soothing is a completely harmless way for babies to try and make themselves feel better in new situations.”

While Breastfeeding

When a mother is breastfeeding her child, a baby often shakes their head for latching. This could be among the first head movements a baby makes. While nursing, they might also shake their head as a way to express their excitement. 

While breastfeeding

Even though they try to support and move their head from one side to another, you should always support the head while you are nursing until they reach three months of age.

Playing And Interaction

Babies have a tendency to learn new skills by doing them over and over again. Learning how to have control over their heads in the world that they know nothing about could be something really exciting for them. They might just do it for fun when they are learning how to deal with it.

Playing and interaction

By the time they learn how to move their head, they start responding to sounds they find familiar and interesting. They might have gotten familiar with their primary caregiver’s voice and responded to it by moving their head.


Babies understand what people are saying around them even before they learn how to talk. Because of that, they understand in bits and pieces what their parents are telling them when they are around six months of age. So, shaking their head may be a way for them to communicate with their parents. 

Medical Reasons

If a baby is shaking their head because of some medical condition, they would have some other symptoms as well simultaneously. It is the responsibility of the caregiver or the parents to keep their head shaking in check if it is accompanied by any other symptoms or not. 

Ear Pain Or Infection

Babes often shake their heads to relieve themselves from pain. If you find your baby shaking their head suddenly, it could be a sign of an ear infection, and this could be even more relevant if they are having a fever or just gesturing at their ear or grabbing it all of a sudden.


Some individuals, including babies, get myoclonic jerks if they have epilepsy. These short seizures cause contractions all of a sudden. When these jerks happen in any part of the body, they might cause a baby to turn their neck or head. These are very short jerks, and it is initially difficult to identify them as seizures.

Autism And Other Issues

Some people and babies who have autism have a tendency to move their bodies for stimulation and self-soothing themselves. If your baby is autistic, you might also find the following symptoms:

  • If they are not meeting their developmental milestones.
  • If they are gaming some skills but eventually losing them.
  • If they are not making any eye contact or not responding to their caregivers.

Neurological Disorders

Baby shaking head side to side could be a signal for some neurological disorder. if you find the baby not being able to control it or having some unusual behavior, then you should be even more careful. 

Shuddering Attacks

This is not something that happens often, but young children and babies sometimes get these shuddering attacks, and these happen spontaneously. Their whole body might shake or shover and might even extend to their head. Doctors do not have an explanation for these, but these attacks are mostly harmless. 

When You Should Visit A Doctor

It is best to visit a doctor for something you are not sure about or have their opinion on. If babies are checked early, then it is easier to solve the problems. If it is a developmental issue, or an ear infection, getting them checked early could save them from worsening the condition. Take them to a doctor immediately if you see the following symptoms.

  • If they are not meeting their developmental milestones, like if they are not trying to pick their head up or not moving their head by the time they are 4 months of age.
  • If you find that they are getting distressed.
  • If the head shaking is involved with other symptoms like having a fever.
  • If they find it difficult to control their movements and their head.

Wrapping Up!

As babies are getting to know the world, they are growing their developmental skills as well. And they behave in an unusual way sometimes. But in most cases, a baby shaking head side to side is nothing unusual. This is the appropriate behavior which indicates that a baby is interacting and exploring the world around him.


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subhasree nag
Subhasree is a content writer who is passionate about traveling, writing, and reading books. In her leisure time, she is seen listening to music and watching web series. Writing along with music and dance are ways in which she expresses herself.

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