We’ve all been there. That moment when your baby does something and you suddenly wonder if they’re malfunctioning. If we were gambling types, we’d be willing to put a large amount of money on “should my baby…” being one of the most commonly searched terms on Google. It’s certainly something we’ve typed into the search box more times than we’d care to imagine. The truth is though, most of the weird things babies do are much more common than you’d expect.
With a combination of absolutely no life experience, brains that are still developing, immature nervous systems and, let’s be real here, zero awareness of what is and isn’t socially acceptable, it’s no surprise they do things that baffle us. But we know how alarming it can be when your little one does something strange or out of character, so we’ve rounded up some of the more unusual things your little one might do to try and put your mind at ease. Because we’re not just talking about YOUR baby. It’s all of them. And pretty much all of the weird things babies do are much more common than you realise.
This is one of the biggest things we hear in the Happy Mum Happy Baby community when it comes to weird things babies do. Picture the scene. You’re minding your own business when you suddenly hear your little one hacking and spluttering. You rush to make sure they’re OK, to find them “coughing” but grinning at you. They’re faking it, the little rascals! Fake coughing is really common amongst babes of around 6 months old. It’s when they’re starting to get the hang of the world around them and they’ve noticed that when they cough, it gets your attention, so they’re trying it out. No need to tick them off or act like it hasn’t happened. If their fake coughs are anything like the ones we’ve seen or heard, you’ll be doing your best not to laugh, so laugh away. Not ideal in a pandemic though, we appreciate.
Baby reflexes are fascinating. Ever seen your baby suddenly flail their arms and legs out as if they’re trying to fly? This can worry parents who think that their otherwise peacefully resting baby might be fitting, but this startle reflex is a regular neurological infantile response that disappears as the nervous system matures, and usually happens when the little one feels like they might be falling. It’s apparently a defensive strategy developed against getting dropped by parents of the very distant past who had ’em strapped to their backs rather than safely in strollers.
Standing to attention
At around 10 months, your baby starts doing the cool thing of grabbing onto pieces of furniture and hauling themselves up to standing. Once they’ve stood however, sometimes your babe might not be able to figure out how to sit again! Lowering yourself back down to a seated position takes practice and quiiiiite a lot of co-ordination so you might find yourself woken up in the wee hours by a baby who has pulled themselves up to standing and can’t quite figure out how to get back to where they were. They’ll figure it out in time, but ’til they do, soft surfaces and pillows are your friend.
Another weird thing babies do that can cause quite a lot of concern for parents is shaking. All babies, but particularly newborns, wriggle, jiggle, shake, twitch and jerk. One minute they’ll be still and serene and before you know it, they’ll be twitching like a new parent who hasn’t slept for three weeks and hasn’t had a coffee yet. Again, this is just a case of a neurological system that hasn’t fully developed yet and their bodies and brains haven’t figured out how to regulate their movements. It’s generally all to be expected but if you find that the shakes last longer than a few seconds, or are just on one side of the body, it’s worth speaking to your doctor and trying to catch the movements on film to show them.
We’ve all had what we affectionately call “senior moments”, regardless of how old we are. Sometimes, babies have these moments too. Your bambino may temporarily forget how to clap or do some of the things they’ve done time and time again. Don’t panic if they look at you like the have no idea what you’re asking of them when you’re trying to entice them to bang their hands together like they did yesterday. The theory goes that these things have gone on the backburner so they can make way for new skills.
Sleeping with their eyes open
Alright, we’ll admit this one is creepy, but it’s not as uncommon as you might think. You might love watching your baby sleep (why is it so soothing to watch their little chests go up and down?) but if their eyes aren’t quite fully closed, it makes the whole thing a little bit weird. Truth is, it’s common in both adults and kids and can be hereditary. In babies, it’s all about that development again. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep patterns, which babies go through longer periods of than adults, combined with a still-developing nervous system might contribute to open eyes during sleep.
One, two, three, four, is your baby declaring a finger war? If you’ve ever found yourself losing a wrestling match with a baby who has an alarmingly strong grip around your finger, you’re not alone. This is apparently another reflex that dates way back to our ancestors and a time when babes had to hang onto their parents for survival. If you believe in evolution, we were once wanderers and our young were often slung over our shoulders or carried everywhere in our arms rather than in high tech prams and sometimes that got heavy. Babies learned to hang on to avoid being dropped and this grip was key. Not only that, but research has shown that when a baby grips onto its parents finger, their heart rate slows, suggesting that not only was it about survival, but it’s pretty soothing too.
For new parents, this always seems to feel like one of the big “weird things babies do”. Noticed your baby having a “touching” moment during nappy changing? Before you start panicking that they’re developing sexual urges exceptionally early, when a baby starts touching their genitals, it means something very different to them than it might to you. It’s very common for babies to start exploring that area around the 5-7 month mark, but it merely comes from a place of curiosity. Much like babies touch their feet or explore their other hands, it’s simply a way of getting to know their own bodies – which is an important part of life and growing up. As they get a bit older, it’s worth preparing yourself for a long few years of having the phrase “stop touching that!” on repeat. The truth is, kids find the whole thing preeeeeetty funny. And that’s OK too.
The truth is, babies are little weirdos, like grownups are big weirdos. But unlike adults, babies are usually doing strange things because their brains, bodies and nervous systems are developing. What’s your excuse?