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  Head banging
I have no idea what to do about the fact that my baby bangs his head on the side of the cot when he is sleepy. I find it so alarming and don’t have the courage to ask my doctor, in case it’s something very bad. How bad is this?

No one is really sure what causes some babies to bang their heads. It is thought that it may be a way for baby to deal with stress and tension. So that is why it is more prevalent at bedtime, because the stress that the baby is feeling is causing the baby to struggle to get to sleep. In fact, this behaviour falls well within the normal spectrum as long as the baby is not injuring himself, or showing aggression in general. However, if your baby is often miserable, hard to console, and spends excessive amounts of time engrossed in head banging, then you should speak to your doctor.

It is not a good idea to pay too much attention to this behaviour as you do not want it to become an attention seeking device. Since the baby is driven to do this, scolding or punishing will not make any difference. In general, babies give up banging by the time they are three years old, perhaps having found other stress relief mechanisms. The other thing to look out for is whether the banging is linked to teething. Some babies get so miserable from the pain of teething that they use rocking and banging in an attempt to reduce or distract themselves from the pain.

Babies do love any repetitive movement and banging does fall into this category. You will notice many babies spend time just rocking on their own. So perhaps including extra rhythmic activities in your daily games could help to reduce the amount of head banging. Babies love to dance and play, and so you could have lots of fun while addressing the situation. Rocking in a rocking chair while singing, or games with drums and xylophones are all ideas to try.

Perhaps you could try to help baby get calmer before bedtime. Babies tend to have very active days, and you may be underestimating the amount of winding down time he requires to get calm enough to sleep. Include more physical contact in the day – such as hugging and snuggling as this is very calming for babies. Perhaps you need to increase the time of the bedtime routine. Make sure that bathtime is calm and relaxing and maybe include some relaxing oils in the bath. A gentle massage after bath may be helpful. Then quiet reading time and lost of relaxing cuddling can be enough to make baby calm and sleepy enough to settle straight down in the cot. It may also be worth waiting until baby is a bit sleepier than usual before putting him down in the cot.

The vibration of banging can cause the cot to get wobbly, so don’t forget to regularly check that the bolts and screws are all still firm. In addition placing the cot on a stiff solid rug can help to anchor it in place, so that it does not move across the floor. If the cot is on rollers, make sure they are firmly locked, or even remove them. Although padding inside the cot will cause a softer banging surface, it is likely that the baby will just seek out a harder surface to bang on. It is still worth a try!

See also:

Head - control



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