Baby twitching while he’s awake – is this normal?
As part of your newborn screening test, doctors also test your baby’s neonatal reflexes. Twitching and jitteriness are included in these neonatal reflex tests.
A newborn baby can be twitching, trembling, jittering, or moving their arms and legs around in reflex when they are asleep or awake. Full-term babies may have newborn twitching and jitteriness, but it is more common in premature babies.
These twitching moments are common because of your newborn baby’s nervous system, which is still developing. However, shaking and trembling could also be signs of seizures or other health conditions.
Also, aside from newborns and developing babies, toddlers can experience twitching. This is caused by uncontrolled muscle contraction or relaxation.
How can we tell when your baby’s twitching or jittering is normal and when to worry? Let us find out in the reviews our team has provided.
Baby Twitching While Awake – What’s Normal?
Twitching and jittering could happen to anyone, especially newborns. This could be a quick and sudden shuddering, proceeding with stiffness that may occur during sleep.
Some adults may quote it as “baby dreaming,” a happier concept instead of a seizure. In adults, we can relate to this when you start snoozing sleep and then you are suddenly jolted awake.
In medical terms, this sudden movement is called myoclonus. Myoclonus is a quick, involuntary twitching, jerking, or jittering of muscle or a group of muscles. Hiccups are one form of myoclonus.
When we are talking about newborn twitching, these are the sudden tiny jerking movements done by the baby, and they only last only for a few seconds. Though it happens only briefly, this also can happen repeatedly.
Your baby’s twitchy behaviour is more noticeable when he is sleeping. Your baby might also twitch when he is being held, startled, being moved, or surprised when hearing a sudden loud noise for example.
Jittering can be associated with a fine trembling movement or tremors. In the first two months of your baby, it is normal and very common for them (even born premature or full-term) to tremble, shake, or become stiff momentarily when crying.
It is also noticeable that your baby’s arms, legs, or jaw quivers. Jittering can stop on its own, but you can also help it stop by gently holding the body part that trembles.
Sometimes, the parent can give her baby a pacifier or cluster feed to help him stop trembling or jittering. Some researchers believe that twitching during sleep is caused by a baby’s sensory-motor development.
What Causes Twitching in Babies and Children?
There are different reasons why a newborn baby, a toddler, or an adult twitches.
Based on research, 67 per cent of newborn babies would have tremors during their first few days after birth. Some of these babies, especially those delivered preterm, can be twitchy or jittery after those first days of life, because of several reasons.
Most cases of newborn twitching and jittering are not warning signs and are probably brought about by the following simple and common reasons:
Newborns have an immature nervous system that is still developing. The passageway that carries the signals from your baby’s brain to his different body parts, is not fully developed, resulting in a twitchy or jittery action.
The jerking or twitching movement may lessen after the first few weeks of your baby’s life as their nervous system matures.
Preterm newborn babies’ reflexes would still be unpredictable, jittery, and jerky for another few months until they can catch up on their development.
At a certain phase of both full-term and premature baby’s life, different body parts may twitch. In newborns, for example, the head and other extremities twitch. This twitching helps your baby in holding up their heads, and moving their arms and legs.
Normal developments during sleep
You may notice that your newborn is twitching at a time when they should be relaxed – while sleeping. These napping periods and nocturnal movements (or sleep myoclonus) could be related to their developments, too.
During the different times and periods of sleep, full-term babies and preemies might jerk or twitch from time to time. When in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleeping, your baby’s quick eye movements may be noticeable along with twitching.
Your baby would have jumped or twitched if they have been surprised of a sudden, like being surprised by a loud banging noise. Your baby’s whole torso stiffens up, and then the arms and legs are wide open.
After a few seconds, your baby then draws back his arms and legs to their normal position. This is what we call the startle or Moro reflex.
Moro reflex can be observed during your baby’s first 12 weeks. Your baby can manage it after his 6 months old when he learns to support his own head. Meanwhile, for preemies, this reflex might take longer to dissipate.
Having too much caffeine in breast milk
Mums who are breastfeeding their babies while drinking lots of caffeinated drinks (like coffee, tea, or soda) might feed their babies with a caffeinated milk supply.
A small amount of caffeine won’t hurt, but an excess amount might result in your baby’s irritable condition, difficulty in sleeping, and might show signs of twitching and jittering.
You may discuss your caffeine intake with your doctor while you are breastfeeding your baby. Some studies may suggest that breastfeeding mums can only take 200-300 milligrams of caffeine a day. In addition, mommies whose babies are preemies should consider taking in a smaller amount.
Other causes of newborn twitchiness and jitteriness could also be related to medical causes, to which medical attention should be given.
Medical causes that may cause twitching or jittering:
- Low blood sugar
- Electrolyte imbalances or vitamin deficiencies
- drug withdrawal
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Why Your Toddler Twitches
Toddlers or grown-up infants are very fond of extraneous activities involving the use of their developed bones and muscles.
Sometimes, toddlers can also experience twitching, even if they are awake. This twitching in toddlers is caused by uncontrolled, involuntary muscle contraction or relaxation.
This myoclonus or pediatric myoclonus occurs when your child starts a movement like walking or running or kicking a ball. These twitches might happen in response to stimuli, like flashing lights or touch. Two or more twitches can happen simultaneously.
Pediatric myoclonus is the quick, jerking, or twitching movements in your child’s muscle. These movements are involuntary or, your child has no control over them.
This may involve different causes: some are not serious, and some can be an indication of a severe medical condition.
These twitchy or jittery movements may vary depending on how often your child experiences them, and how severe these are.
Your child could experience small twitches, but sometimes he could experience a bigger twitching or jerking movement that happens more often.
Myoclonus might affect one or two body parts, like your arms, legs, and even your head. Other types of myoclonus may be caused by a nervous disorder, like epilepsy.
Delving into the twitching or jittering of your newborn or toddler is a must. Some hospitals require a newborn reflex test to identify earlier signs and symptoms of underlying complications your baby has.
Consult your child’s paediatrician if you see signs of twitches that are not normal, such as if they occur very regularly or have become more frequent and severe, and if it causes discomfort or interferes with your child’s daily activities.
This article was written by Nathanielle Torre and republished with permission from theAsianparent Philippines.
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