Why Do Babies Shake and When You Should Call Your Doctor

Why Do Babies Shake and When You Should Call Your Doctor

Babies do all sorts of strange things that cause parents all sorts of stress. Read on to find out why babies shake and when you should worry.

Babies are beautifully mysterious. We can’t stop marvelling at their tiny hands and feet and the way they stretch when they sleep. We also cannot fathom why they do the things they do – their sudden chuckling, whimpering, quivering and the list goes on. One such thing that many parents often find themselves puzzled about is just why do babies shake. Should they be worried or is this normal? 

How do babies shake?

Before we talk about why babies shake, here are some examples of what we mean when we talk about babies shaking.

Babies tend to suddenly shake, shudder, shiver or display movements that appear like tremors. These happen for a few reasons.

Some babies involuntarily start to shake all over when they get excited, when they see someone they know or when they set their eyes on a toy that they like. 

Some babies quiver while nursing or when you change their diapers. 

Babies even have what you call a startle response, when they open their arms and legs and it looks as if they are catching themselves from a fall. This usually happens as they are drifting off to sleep. If they don’t start screaming in terror this is actually pretty adorable. 

Why do babies shake?

Before we go on, it would be comforting for you to know that most of the time the reason why babies shake is nothing to be concerned about. 

It’s mostly got to do with them expressing themselves or their immature nervous systems. Babies are still developing and so is their neurological system. As such, it sends more electrical impulses to the muscles than necessary. As long as your baby is meeting milestones and thriving, you don’t have to be too concerned. 

why do babies shake

Why do babies shake? A happy, healthy and thriving baby who shakes a little here and there is perfectly normal.

So, why do babies shake? Here are two common and harmless reasons why:

1. Learning control 

You might have observed that some babies have a tendency to shake their heads from side to side. This is simply them learning to exercise control over their body. At times, they may even be imitating what you do. 

Babies are also really clever. They might have noticed that they elicit a great response from you by shaking their head and this in itself can be why babies shake!

In this case, it’s absolutely nothing to worry about so just sit back and enjoy the cute moments while they last.

2. Tired 

Why Do Babies Shake and When You Should Call Your Doctor

Babies get tired and sometimes they are overstimulated when you take them out for too long. As such, they may shake their head to soothe themselves. Sometimes they do so until they fall asleep. 

Again, this is no cause for concern.

When you should worry 

In certain cases, there may be an underlying reason why babies shake and this warrants a visit to the paediatrician. 


Repetitive movements including head shaking can be an indication of autism. But this is must be accompanied by other signs like not making eye contact, not smiling, not babbling and not responding when you call them by their name. 

If you suspect that something is amiss, get it checked for early intervention is extremely important for babies with autism.

Ear Infection

Another reason why babies shake, especially their heads, is if they have an ear infection. Again, head shaking on its own does not mean that your baby has an infection. It must be accompanied with signs such as a cold, fever and being less active than usual. 

why do babies shake

Why do babies shake? Usually, it’s harmless, but sometimes, there could be a medical cause, like ear infection.

If their inner ear is blocked, it may be a reason why babies shake as they are trying to ease themselves of the discomfort. 

What to look out for 

If your baby is shaking continuously for more than 20 seconds, loses consciousness, if his eyes flick from side to side, or if his lips turn blue, call your doctor immediately.

Do observe if the shaking is rhythmic or symmetric. All of these could be a harbinger of a of a seizure or a neurological disorder. 

In other cases, which aren’t so much an emergency, look out for whether your child is shaking his head frequently, doesn’t reach developmental milestones or continues the shaking beyond two years of age. If he is, it’s best that you get him assessed.

There you go mums and dads, a list of possibilities as to why babies shake. It’s completely normal for you to panic over every tiny thing at this stage so don’t feel bad or that you are paranoid if Google has become your best friend. 

These tiny beings have an incredible amount of power over us and are capable of causing us massive worry and anxiety. It’s all part of being a parent! 

References: Web MD

Got a parenting concern? Read articles or ask away and get instant answers on our app. Download theAsianparent Community on iOS or Android now!

Written by

Nasreen Majid

app info
get app banner