Having a baby can turn even the most laid-back person in the world into a paranoid mess. Knowing that you’re responsible for a new little person’s health, happiness, and well-being can be quite intimidating. And when you’re doing the whole parenting thing for the first time, it can be hard to rein in the anxiety you feel over whether your baby is perfectly OK or whether there’s something out of the ordinary going on.
Sometimes even the strangest seeming behaviors can be totally normal. And on the flip side, sometimes behaviors that seem common can be signs of something much more serious. It can be hard to know the difference without some professional help, but that’s what doctors are for— I personally loved the monthly check ups I had to take my daughter to with her pediatrician, because they gave me a chance to go over all my questions and concerns.
Luckily, most of the time when parents worry and stress over something their baby is doing (or not doing), it turns out that it’s not a big deal. But we all know that it’s better to be safe than sorry, so there are some things you might want to get checked out— just in case.
Here are 15 weird baby behaviors you don’t want want to ignore.
15 Crying Constantly
Babies are going to cry from time to time— they just can’t help it, plus they have no other way of communicating their needs. They may be signaling that they’re hungry, that they need a diaper change, that they’re tired, or maybe that they just need a cuddle. It’s all perfectly normal.
What’s not necessarily normal, however, is for a baby to cry for hours on end, all day and all night long. Some babies suffer from colic, and no one really knows why or what causes it. But in some cases, your baby could be trying to tell you that they’re in some sort of pain, and they need your help to fix the problem. Your baby could be dealing with gas, constipation, or other digestive troubles that need to be checked out by a doctor.
14 Refusing To Breastfeed
If you’ve got your heart set on breastfeeding your baby, it can be devastating when they stubbornly refuse to nurse. If babies have had a taste of the bottle, they may reject the boob because it’s kind of effortless to drink from a bottle instead. They might simply have trouble with their latch, or you might have trouble getting them into a comfortable position to nurse. Thos
e problems might be surmountable with time and patience, but there can also be physical issues that prevent a baby from nursing properly. They could have a tongue or lip-tie, which a doctor can try to correct in a procedure called a frenectomy. Tongue and lip ties aren’t always so severe that they need to be addressed, but in some cases leaving them untreated could lead to speech delays.
13 Not Peeing Or Pooping
In their first few weeks and months of life, it can seem like babies do nothing but pee and poop. And it’s actually not that far from the truth— it’s not unusual for babies to dirty their diaper every time they eat, so it’s no surprise that you can go through a dozen or more diaper changes a day.
While some babies will go much less than that, it is important to make sure they’re making enough wet diapers. A good rule of thumb is at least 5 per day once they’re over 5 days old. If your baby is going much less than that, it could be a sign of dehydration or that they’re not getting enough to eat. That in turn can effect their weight gain and slow down their growth.
12 Throwing Up
It’s just a fact of life with babies that you’re going to get doused in spit up every once in a while. Hopefully you’ll have tons of bibs, burp clothes, and back-up outfits on hand for those situations, because spit up is normal. What’s not normal, however, is for baby to be spitting up so often and so profusely that it’s actually more accurate to call it vomiting. There are a couple of different things that can cause your little one to vomit, and some of them can be very serious.
It can be caused by acid reflux or other stomach issues, or even a condition called pyloric stenosis. That’s when the valve leading to the stomach thickens so much that it blocks food from getting it, and it requires surgery to fix.
11 Staring Into Space
We all have our moments when we feel our minds drifting away for a few seconds (or minutes), and we find ourselves staring blankly off into the distance. Adults are totally guilty of this, so it’s no surprise that babies do it, too. It can just be a sign that they’re tired or overstimulated and looking for a break. The older they get, however, the more concerning it can be if the behavior continues.
It can be a sign of autism, which can usually be diagnosed after age 2. It could also be in an indication of a child with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Lastly, in kids over 4, staring into space could actually be what’s called an absence seizure— when a child goes unresponsive for as many as 20 seconds at a time.
10 Refusing Solids
You’d think after four to six months of drinking nothing but breastmilk or formula, babies would be more than ready for a little variety and jump at the chance to try some solid foods. Some babies chow down with gusto, while other babies absolutely refuse. It can be normal for babies to be skeptical about solids at first, but if you’ve been trying for a few months without success, it’s probably time to fill your doctor in.
They may want you to look into feeding therapy, or even be seen by a speech pathologist to check whether there are any physical issues that could be making your child refuse to eat. Whatever the issue it is, it’s crucial to nip it in the bud. The longer a child goes without eating properly, the harder it can be to correct the issue as they get older.
9 Not Chewing Food
Introducing table food to babies and toddlers can be a fun, albeit messy, experience. It can also be incredibly stressful to parents like myself who are constantly convinced that their child is going to choke, no matter how tiny I dice up all of their food. It becomes even more nerve-wracking if your child is swallowing their food whole rather than taking the time to chew.
Sometimes they’re not chewing because they’re too excited or distracted, which is scary but normal. But it is a concern if your child hardly ever chews anything. Your doctor may want you to see a speech pathologist that can check for any feeding and swallowing disorders. They may even recommend sticking with purees until the problem is solved to reduce the risk of choking.
8 Disliking Texture
Some babies will flat out refuse to eat food if they don’t like the consistency. They’ll sputter, gag, and spit-out anything they deem too lumpy or too sticky, and they may get very upset if the offending foodstuff gets on their hands. While we all have some foods we don’t like and textures we prefer over others, it is a bit of a concern if a baby becomes extremely distressed by certain textures. It can be a sign of sensory processing disorder (SPD), which is often present in kids with autism.
Medical professionals are still debating whether SPD is its own disorder or a symptom of autism, but either way any signs of sensory issues need to be checked out. Occupational therapy can help kids overcome their aversions to certain textures.
7 Showing No Interest In Toys
Like many of the items on this list, showing no interest in playing or in their toys can simply be a sign that a baby is exhausted and needs a little time to unwind. It’s not necessarily a reason to panic if they have no desire to play peek-a-boo with you at times, or if they don’t particularly want to grab any toys you set out in front of them.
But if these behaviors are constant, it could be a red flag. If your baby isn’t at least eyeballing their toys with interest by two months old, or actively reaching for things around 9 months, you should let your pediatrician know. It can be a sign of autism, or an indication that they’re falling behind in the development of their motor skills.
6 Starting A Limp
Babies who are just learning to walk are obviously going to be a bit wobbly on their feet— it’s not uncommon for them to resemble a cute little drunken sailor when they’re staggering around the house. But if your baby is limping when they walk, something is definitely up with them. The most obvious cause is that they’ve injured themselves somehow, but other more serious conditions could be making them limp as well.
It could be a structural problem with their limbs, or a disorder like juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. It the most serious cases, it can even be a sign of cancer. If you notice your child walking with a limp or that they’re heavily favoring one leg or foot over the other, you should let your doctor know right away.
5 Terrified By Certain Noises
If you’ve ever run a vacuum cleaner or switched on a blender when your baby is hanging out nearby, you probably know by now that most babies aren’t a fan of these kinds of noises. While it’s normal for babies to get a little startled or upset by certain noises, especially if they’re unexpected, it’s not necessarily normal for them to become extremely distressed by it.
If certain sounds are causing them to go into full on meltdown mode on a regular basis, it could be a sign of sensory processing disorder (SPD). Somewhere between 5 and 15 percent of school age kids could have it. For kids with SPD, loud noises aren’t just annoying or aggravating— they’re actually painful. Ear muffs, ear plugs, and noise-cancelling headphones may help them deal.
4 Ignoring Sounds
No matter what age your child is, chances are just about every parent everywhere has experienced being ignored by their kid. Sometimes even babies will ignore a parent trying to speak to them, perhaps because they’re tired or just because they’re wrapped up in play. But if a baby is ignoring the sound of your voice, isn’t reacting to sudden, loud noises, and doesn’t respond to music, it could indicate a hearing problem.
An issue with their ears can effect their overall communication, slowing down their speech development as well— a one-year old who isn’t speaking or babbling much could also be effected by a hearing problem. If you think this applies to your baby or toddler, you’ll want to let your doctor know right away and get their ears checked.
3 Losing A Milestone
When you have a new baby, especially if it’s your first, you tend to anxiously await each new milestone. You look forward to the pride and joy you’ll feel when you see your child master a new task, but also feel relief when you realize that they’re right on track in their development.
But problems can arise if a baby that once had a new milestone under their belt suddenly seems to have forgotten all about it. That could mean things like a baby who previously talked now won’t speak, a former walker is now staying put, or a little one who had fine motor skills now seems uncoordinated. Backtracking in any of these areas can be a sign of some serious underlying issues including autism spectrum disorder or epilepsy.
2 Sleeping Too Much
Now that I’m the parent of a toddler who fights sleep with all her might on a nightly basis, it’s funny to look back on those newborn days when I worried that she slept too much. Brand new babies need tons of sleep— as much as 16 hours a day, and sometimes up to 20. In most cases, it’s important to let them sleep if they’re tired.
For sleep-deprived parents, a baby who’s constantly snoozing may seem like hitting the jackpot, but there are some things to watch out for. Infections and conditions like jaundice can make a baby more tired than normal, so you’ll want to rule those out to make sure they’re not the reason you’re getting so much shut eye.
1 Not Making Eye Contact
It’s not unusual for babies to zone out from time to time, just like adults. If they’re feeling extra tired and have had enough stimulation for the day, they might look away from you and refuse to meet your eye, because it simply takes too much energy for them. While that can be normal, you’ll want to make sure it’s not happening constantly. If your baby is over 3 months and regularly refusing to look you in the eye, your pediatrician may want to check for any vision problems.
If there are no problems there, the next step would be to rule out any behavioral disorders or attachment issues. Some research has linked a drop in the amount of eye contact a baby makes between 2 and 6 months old with increased chances of being diagnosed with autism when they’re older.
Sources: The Bump, Healthline, Parents, Autism Speaks, Baby Center, Huffington Post, Today’s Parent, She Knows