Why Is My Child Head Butting? It’s More Comforting Than It Sounds

Low Rider

Just a few weeks ago our little guy started doing a small amount of head banging.  Not the Wayne’s World rock out to Bohemian Rhapsody in Garth’s AMC Pacer kind.  But more along the I’m gonna purposely head butt whatever is right in front of me phase.

Against his high chair, our shoulder when carrying him, on his mattress in the crib. Just about everywhere. It isn’t hard, nor is it hurtful but it was a bit strange when it began out of nowhere.  We were caught a bit off guard and we weren’t quite sure exactly what it meant or why he was doing it.  Like any good father would do, I Googled the topic and discovered  it’s actually quite a familiar situation.

I found this article written on BabyCenter.com describing some of the exact things we were experiencing and what it means.

“Head banging is surprisingly common. Up to 20 percent of babies and toddlers bang their head on purpose, although boys are three times more likely to do it than girls.”

Now, to be clear, I would never rely on just a Google search to answer health problems.  Our concern, like many parents I’m sure, is whether or not he’s gonna hurt himself.  Along with the banging, our little guy also does a lot of head shaking.  A quick back and forth shake that lasts for a few moments.  While many parents describe their kiddos doing it while on their back, we’ve noticed our dude doing it while sitting in his high chair and even while holding him.

The concept of head shaking and banging is actually rather interesting.  With so much going on in their heads and with few communication skills developed yet, it actually makes sense for the head shake to be a bit comforting.

“Self-comfort. As strange as it may sound, most toddlers who indulge in this behavior do it to relax. They bang their head rhythmically as they’re falling asleep, when they wake up in the middle of the night, or even while they’re sleeping. Some rock on all fours as well. Developmental experts believe that the rhythmic motion, like rocking in a chair, may help your toddler soothe himself.”

“Pain relief. Your toddler may also bang his head if he’s in pain — from teething or an ear infection, for example. Head banging seems to help kids feel better, perhaps by distracting them from the discomfort in their mouth or ear.”

“Frustration. If your toddler bangs his head during temper tantrums, he’s probably trying to vent some strong emotions. He hasn’t yet learned to express his feelings adequately through words, so he’s using physical actions. And again, he may be comforting himself during this very stressful event.”

Since the shakes and head butts are usually fairly short lived and appear to have little effect on him, we’re letting him wiggle it out.  We’ve got our next doctor appointment coming up in just a few weeks so we’ll address the topic with her, but overall this appears to be a stage he’s working through.

It should be noted, many “experts” say you shouldn’t put any sort of cushions in the crib with your baby during this phase.  No blankets, pillows, or especially bumpers.  In fact, we returned our bumper after our doctor recommended we not use it.  While every nursery photo, from every baby store ever, shows a bumper in the crib, we chose to forego one for safety.  Best decision ever, and it still stands now.

If you’re experiencing this similar situation, what are you doing to keep your kiddo safe?  What are your techniques for this situation?

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