Is my baby normal?

The behaviour of babies can seem abnormal to adults – but is it really? We take at look at what’s a normal part of a baby's development and what’s not

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Baby in highchair

Your baby’s strange bodily movements

Moro Reflex
Babies will sometimes fling out their limbs like a starfish as if they’re having a seizure. They’re not – this is the Moro Reflex, which is a natural reaction and present from birth. In fact, you should be concerned if they don’t have it. Only in very rare cases can a spasm indicate a more serious motor-neurological problem.

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Head banging
Around a fifth of otherwise ‘normal’ babies head-bang in their cot. It seems to be a way for them to relieve tension. It’s also a way for him to stimulate his vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and motion. If it hurt enough to do damage then he’d stop, so don’t worry.

Rhythmic rocking
This is also done to relieve tension and to comfort. As such, it’s no more ‘abnormal’ than thumb sucking, and often accompanies head banging.

Your baby’s repetition of sounds and gestures

Your baby explores his little world constantly and will rehearse and repeat sounds and gestures just to see what happens. This can include anything from blowing raspberries and adopting odd bodily positions to squealing for long periods or thumping his limbs against the wall. This may have similarities with behaviours of special needs children, but if it’s occasional then it’s almost certainly not special needs behaviour.

It can also look like attention-seeking behaviour. But as long as you’re giving him enough attention, it’s much more likely to be a simple exploration of what his body can do.

If you’re worried about any of these physical behaviours, contact your GP for an examination. She will probably reassure you that it’s within the expected range.

Your baby’s attention-seeking behaviour

Even babies can exploit their power to worry you. Holding their breath is one tactic – sometimes until they turn blue. If this is done in response to a difficult situation, you’ll know it’s a conscious action and not a medical problem. It won’t do him any harm, so deal with it by giving him a cuddle to help him calm down.

Your baby’s self-exploration (that is, touching themself)

Babies and older children play with their genitals. You mightn’t like it but it’s perfectly normal. Little boys are especially likely to stretch their penis, squash it or make it go hard! Don’t draw attention to it by talking about or prohibiting it.

Your baby’s contrary behaviour

The battle of wills begins early. You may be bigger and stronger, but that won’t intimidate a baby. They can hold their own simply by refusing to cooperate with you. Sometimes the more they sense your eagerness to do or prevent the thing in question, the more they’ll resist and oppose you. Ignoring the behaviour whenever it’s feasible to do so is the best option.

Your baby’s rough activity

Banging, thrashing, tearing around and even turning themselves upside down is all about pushing the boundaries of physical development. They’re developing their sense of space and depth, so this activity’s normal and necessary. Most babies love some rough play but it’s not a sign of aggression.

Your baby’s aggressive contact with other babies or adults

When we make friends as adults, we use sympathetic eye contact and perhaps gentle touch to express our positive feelings. Babies are more likely to stare and poke at other children to express their interest. They’ve no concept of ‘personal space’.

This often extends to grabbing and yanking other children. This is because they haven’t yet developed the fine motor skills that enable them to use small and accurate finger movements.

Babies can behave in apparently hostile ways even to a family member. This can be upsetting, as it usually involves the baby screaming at the person in question. This is simply a response to feeling unsafe and nothing personal. Remember it’s a passing phase.

Your baby’s repeated crying

On average, babies cry 1-2 hours a day. There’s often a straightforward explanation, such as hunger, discomfort, affection, teething, wind, which are all easy to check by a process of elimination.

Extended crying can signal a problem such as colic, which babies usually get in the first three months. Your health visitor can help. The one cry that’s a specific cause for concern is an unusual high-pitched cry or moan, which is one symptom of meningitis.

Does your baby have a learning difficulty?

The following could indicate a learning problem. If you’re worried, consult your health visitor.

• Being slow to sit up independently. More specifically, they’re over 8 months when they do.

• Making a lot of reaching and grasping moves with only limited success.

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• Bottom shuffling rather than crawling. This may indicate later problems with reading, writing or sequencing.

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