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Baby Arching Back When Lying Down or Sleeping
Baby health & safety

Baby Arching Back: Causes and Solutions

Is your baby arching her back or neck? Do you notice them doing it while sleeping, lying down, nursing, breastfeeding, and crying at night? We understand that as a mother, anything that appears out of the usual may be concerning. We just want our children to be healthy, prosper, and develop. Our alarm bells keep ringing when things don’t go as expected.

We’ll go through the potential causes of your infant arching their back when they are 3, 4, or even 6 months old. We will also see what you can do to help.

So, why my baby is arching back when lying down?

When a baby is unhappy or frustrated, some arch their backs and throw their heads back. You may experience this while holding them in your arms, resting on the bed, sitting, or even standing. It’s not uncommon for babies to have tantrums and thrash about while they’re making a fuss. A tantrum can be caused by almost anything.

In general, it is normally perfectly natural and causes no concern. However, if they are spitting up and seem to be suffering from other symptoms, they may arch their back. Similar to when newborns experience colic, they may arch their back to assist alleviate the symptoms of reflux.

Main causes of why baby arching back when lying down:


Because infants are unable to express their needs verbally, they often utilize physical signals to alert you to their distress. They may sometimes just arch their back to communicate with you, indicating that they are unhappy, weary, or hungry.

If you attempt your usual ways of responding to your baby’s needs, including feeding, moving, changing diapers, or diversion, the arching and screaming will cease rather soon.


Oh, colic. It’s a term that a lot of parents hear but don’t want to deal with. Colic may be the cause of your infant screaming for extended periods of time for no apparent reason, drawing their knees up to their tummy, clenching their hand, or arching their back while crying.

The issue with colic is that no one knows why it occurs. Gas or poor digestion, an undeveloped neurological system, or a sensitive temperament are some hypotheses, but the cause is still unclear. It’s unlikely to be an issue for much longer if your kid is eating and developing properly. The good news is that colic generally goes away on its own by the time your kid is three to four months old.

Whatever the cause, be assured that it is not your fault and that your child will be OK. In the meanwhile, do some research on colic to learn how to cope with it, both for your baby’s sake and your own sanity.


Gastroesophageal reflux may be the reason for your baby’s arching and screaming during or immediately after a meal. When stomach acids are regurgitated up into the esophagus, producing discomfort and burning, this is known as acid reflux. If you’ve ever had heartburn as an adult, you have a good idea of what a baby goes through when they have reflux.

If your baby has reflux, they may also spit up more often and in greater quantities than usual, have foul breath, and be more comfortable being held upright. Based on the intensity of your baby’s reflux, your doctor may suggest a thicker formula or even acid reflux medication.

Doctors will constrict the esophageal sphincter and make it tougher for acid reflux to find its way up in certain instances, typically when there is an underlying chronic medical condition causing to the issue.

Rumination disorder

Rumination is a condition in which a kid or baby consumes food, regurgitates it on deliberately, chews it, and then either swallows it or spits it out (3). If this is the case with your child, they may arch their back and make a sucking action with their lips while pushing their head back in an attempt to bring the food they ingested to the surface.

Rumination is categorized as an eating disorder and may be triggered by any of the following factors:

  • Physical illness
  • Stress
  • Needing attention
  • Neglect or abuse
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The term “neurodevelopmental disorders” refers to a group of conditions that weight loss, dental rot, poor breath, and chapped lips are some of the other signs of rumination. The good news is that most children grow out of rumination, but your doctor can likely offer you some suggestions to assist support your kid and discourage the habit while you wait.


Have you observed your baby arching back while sleeping on the side? Do they wake up screaming or go back into the arched posture if you attempt to transfer them to a new position? If this is the case, it’s possible that your infant is suffering from sleep apnea, which is an irregular rhythm of breathing during sleep.

While sleeping, babies with sleep apnea may arch their backs. This posture allows them to breathe more easily when sleeping by opening up their airways.


Autism affects how children interact with others, how they form social connections, and how they create developmental delays, even in the individuals closest to them. They have difficulty understanding facial emotions and signals as well.

Autism in its early stages is a potential reason to consider if your infant arches its back while being carried, as if attempting to get away from you (5). It would be to avoid physical contact in this instance, and they are having trouble understanding why you are lifting them up. This kind of conduct does not typically occur on its own. Other early symptoms of autism, such as poor eye contact, not smiling, and delayed language development, are important to be aware of and monitor for as your child develops.

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) manifests itself in a variety of ways in children. This may involve repeated movements like back arching, but keep in mind that back arching is more often caused by other factors. Autistic children may exhibit signs as early as a year old (or even younger), but most children aren’t diagnosed until they’re about three years old.

A newborn or a kid who is just a few weeks or months old would most likely exhibit no symptoms of this illness. If your kid is on the autistic spectrum, they will most likely exhibit a variety of additional behaviors in addition to back arching.

By the end of the first year, an autistic infant may exhibit more common characteristics, including as:

  • not smiling spontaneously at parents or caregivers
  • not using eye contact to communicate
  • not gesturing (waving or pointing) on their own

Your kid may later develop additional repeated movements, such as:

  • stiffening their arms
  • flapping their hands
  • walking on their toes

Cerebral palsy

Is your child constantly arching their back, appearing unable to stop it? Does it happen when your baby’s legs and arms stretch out and bend? Cerebral palsy is a possible reason.

Cerebral palsy is an umbrella term for a range of diseases that impair a person’s ability to move and regulate their motions (6). It is brought on by brain injury that occurs during pregnancy or soon after delivery.

One of the earliest symptoms of cerebral palsy is the recurrence of the tonic labyrinthine response, which involves the infant arching their back, tilting their head, straightening their legs, and bending their arms. This reflex is typical in the first few months of birth, but if it occurs often or excessively, and there are developmental abnormalities, a neurologic issue should be considered.


Kernicterus is an uncommon form of brain injury that may happen to infants who have been exposed to a lot of jaundice (7). Involuntary muscular spasms, which cause the baby’s back to arch excessively, are one of the signs.

Jaundice is very prevalent among infants, affecting approximately three out of every five. In very rare instances, bilirubin levels rise far beyond normal and do not fall on their own or with therapy, and kernicterus becomes a worry. Aside from being yellow, infants with kernicterus may be sluggish, have poor muscle tone, have difficulty feeding, and have a high-pitched scream, as well as irritation and back arching.

Phototherapy and formula for hydration are used to treat jaundice, but genuine kernicterus is a life-threatening condition that frequently requires an exchange transfusion, in which the baby’s blood is swapped with healthy blood to eliminate the bilirubin.


Is your child arching their back and spasming in a manner that they don’t appear to be able to control?

Infantile spasms are a kind of seizure condition that affects children under the age of one year (8). These seizures usually begin around the age of four months, although they may begin sooner or even as late as two years old in rare instances.

Infantile spasms, unlike more conventional seizure disorders, are seldom accompanied with widespread convulsions, making detection and diagnosis more difficult for both parents and physicians. Even with medicine, seizures are difficult to control, and infants with this disease are at a higher risk of developmental delays. The sooner it is determined that these occurrences are seizures, the sooner the kid may be treated with antiepileptic medicines.


When your baby is gassy or has an upset stomach, they may arch their backs. It may make them feel better by stretching out their stomachs and little digestive systems. This may happen after a meal, while they’re attempting to defecate, or when they’re laying down (same, tbh).

Startle reflex

Also known as the Moro reflex, babies may baby kicking legs and arching back when they’re startled. This usually lasts until they’re between the ages of two and four months.

Tummy time

As your baby becomes used to tummy time, they will notice that they have a new perspective on the world and will begin to explore. They do this in a variety of ways, including arching their backs to allow them to view more of the action.

Body language

When your baby is handled, they may arch their back because they don’t want to be held or fed. This kind of rigidity of the body may indicate that they should sit down or change positions. Some infants have powerful back muscles, and this may be the simplest method for their bodies to tell you what they want besides screaming. Up to the age of two years, your little independent one may utilise the “back arch technique” to avoid unwanted hugs!

Rollover attempts

Your child’s back and neck muscles will strengthen as he or she grows accustomed to tummy time. They’ve figured out how to raise their heads and understand that the more they move, the more they can see. This is fantastic!

To get into a better position to investigate, your baby may arch their back during tummy time or when laying down on their side or back. When attempting to roll over or crawl forward, some infants arch their backs. Their brows will most likely rise as they wriggle every muscle in their body.

Temper tantrums

Your little angel may be ahead of the game when it comes to the terrible twos. When they’re angry or irritated, some infants arch their backs and fling their heads back. This may happen when they’re sleeping, sitting, standing, or even being held in your arms. In the midst of a tantrum, a baby may scream, moan, and thrash about.

A temper tantrum may be triggered by almost anything. Your child may be hungry because they aren’t receiving what they requested from you, their short-order chef, right away. Alternatively, they may have finished eating and want to play. Alternatively, your infant may be upset because they are unable to communicate their wants to you.

It may be frightening when your infant arches their back and tosses their head backward, regardless of the cause for the tantrum. They can injure themselves — and smack you in the face.

Seizures or seizure-like movements

Convulsions in newborn infants are not the same as seizures or epilepsy in older children and adults, despite the fact that they seem severe. Seizures — or seizure-like movements and behaviors that are mistaken for seizures — may start as early as the first week of life for your kid.

A seizure may last anywhere from a few seconds to many minutes. Your infant may become extremely silent and seem rigid or frozen all of a sudden. It’s also possible that they can still move their hands by twisting their wrists.

During what seems to be a seizure-like activity, some infants may arch their backs. It may happen at any moment, but it typically happens while your baby is awake or just about to go asleep.

Newborn seizures are rare, but they may occur because a baby’s brain is still developing and nerves can get tangled. Seizures in newborns are an uncommon occurrence that may run in families. Some infants with this uncommon hereditary seizure disease have them often, while others have them just seldom or never. By the time your kid is 6 to 9 months old, these infant seizures should be entirely gone.

Nerve damage

A traumatic birth may damage your baby’s fragile neck and spine. The nerves that connect the neck and shoulders may be injured.

Erb’s palsy is a rare disease that affects approximately one in every 1,000 infants. It occurs when the neck nerves become weak as a result of excessive straining during delivery. The neck and shoulder muscles get weaker as the nerves become weaker.

Because they can move their back muscles and other strong muscles better than their neck muscles, this may induce back arching in your infant. Back arching, on the other hand, is not a symptom of this disease. It might be accompanied by additional symptoms, such as a loss of mobility in one shoulder and arm.

The majority of infants born with Erb’s Palsy and other nerve disorders recover fully. Your child’s doctor may suggest regular activities to strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles.

Newborn jaundice

Jaundice affects almost 60% of infants, according to Trusted Source. Your infant may seem yellow as a result of this disease. It occurs when a newborn’s small liver fails to function correctly, resulting in an excess of bilirubin in the blood. This substance is left behind from the breakdown of blood in your body.

When babies are 3 to 5 days old, they have the highest levels of bilirubin. By the time your kid is a few weeks old, the liver should have kicked in and cleared the bilirubin.

Jaundice may sometimes worsen rather than improve. Too much bilirubin, which causes severe jaundice, may induce kernicterus, a kind of brain disease.

Arching the back is a typical indication of kernicterus brain injury in infants with or without extremely high bilirubin levels. Other signs and symptoms usually involve:

  • high pitch crying
  • floppiness or stiffness
  • hard to wake up or not sleeping at all
  • not feeding well

More causes of baby throwing head back when feeding:

There are many potential causes of a baby throwing their head back when feeding. It could be a sign that they are full and want to stop eating, or it could be a reflexive action. It is also possible that the baby is uncomfortable and wants to move their head to relieve the pressure. If your baby is consistently throwing their head back during feedings, it is important to speak with a doctor to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

One of the most common reasons why babies throw their heads back is because they are full. Babies have small stomachs and can only eat a limited amount of food at each meal. When they reach their limit, they may start to push back or turn their head away from the breast or bottle. If your baby is throwing their head back and seems to be content afterward, then they are likely just full and don’t want to eat any more.

Another common reason for this behavior is that it is a reflexive action. Babies are born with a number of reflexes, which are automatic responses to certain stimuli. The Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex, is one of the most well-known reflexes. It is characterized by the baby throwing their head back and extending their arms and legs. The Moro reflex is elicited when the baby feels like they are falling or when they are startled by a loud noise. While it can be alarming to see your baby suddenly throw their head back, it is perfectly normal and nothing to be concerned about.

It is also possible that the baby is uncomfortable and wants to move their head to relieve the pressure. Babies often have gas or tummy aches, which can cause them to throw their head back in an attempt to get relief. If your baby seems to be in pain or discomfort, speak with their doctor to see if there is anything that can be done to help.

Another reason can be Sandifer Syndrome. Sandifer syndrome is a condition that is characterized by spasms of the muscles in the head and neck. These spasms can cause the baby to arch their back and throw their head back. Sandifer syndrome is often seen in babies who have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). GERD is a condition where stomach acid flows back up into the esophagus, causing irritation. If your baby has GERD, their doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes or medication to help relieve the symptoms.

What You Should Do?

Whether your child’s back is arching due to a severe ailment or a more common one, as moms, we want to find a solution. So take a moment to stop, take a deep breath, and try these techniques to see if they may assist your baby relax and quiet down.

Keep calm

Bring your baby to a calm, tranquil location where there will be no distractions. This will help them relax, and it will be particularly beneficial if the arching is caused by an emotional thing, such as stress, or a sensory issue, such as autism.

Sometimes all a baby wants is to be soothed and to know that you are there for them. It’s also critical that you remain calm so that you can pass that energy on to your child. So dim the lights and sing a gentle melody. Soaking in the affection for a few moments may be just what they need to feel more at ease and relaxed.

Reposition your baby

Both you and your child will benefit from cuddling with your infant. And we  are not making this up; science is on my side when it comes to the snuggling issue.

Both mother and baby benefit from the release of oxytocin, a hormone that promotes bonding and happiness. Babies that are hugged sleep better, are less stressed and have more consistent heart rates.

Hold your infant in a more upright posture in your arms if you suspect your kid is suffering from reflux after a meal. Gravity aids in keeping gastric acid where it belongs: in the stomach.


Quite often the easiest solution is distraction. Whatever was triggering the arching and weeping may be temporarily forgotten by a baby’s favorite lovey, brightly colored toy or a funny smile from mom.

When to call a doctor?

While the aforementioned techniques may help calm down your baby and alleviate whatever underlying problem is causing them to arch their back, they may not always be adequate. If the aforementioned methods fail, or you suspect that something more severe is afoot, don’t hesitate to call your child’s doctor. They may be able to offer you not just a definite diagnosis, but also suggestions, medicines, or therapies to assist address your baby’s issue.

Remember to keep a journal of your experiences. It may be difficult for physicians to identify what happens outside of their appointment rooms, but there are a few items you can bring with you to assist them in seeing the whole picture.

  • Take pictures or videos of your kid arching their back.
  • You have a list of questions.
  • A list of all the things you’ve attempted to assist your baby thus far.

Read more:

Why Do Baby Turning Head Side To Side?

Comfortable Positions During Pregnancy To Watch TV

Is it Safe for Babies to Sleep with Pacifier Clips: A Guide to Using Them at Night



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Chelsy Gallagher

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