15 Baby Habits That Should Alarm Mom

Baby habits: do babies really develop habits so young? How do we know, as caregivers, if something baby is doing can be defined as a habit. Furthermore, are there habits we should be looking out for, and what can we do to divert baby from doing something that may be harming him?

So many questions! Our doubts as new parents are many, but we won't always be wrong. Our priority is keeping our baby safe, and knowing what to look out for is one of the things we should learn as first time moms or dads.

What is a habit exactly? Kidshelath.org defines a habit as being, "... a pattern of behavior that's repeated, and the child doing it usually isn't even aware of it...."

Babies CAN develop habits, and often these habits are difficult to break because they are sometimes a result of baby's natural development. Fortunately, medicine and experience have allowed experts to identify which habits may be doing baby harm rather than good.

Habits also come on with a certain subtleness, and we may only realize baby has developed one if it becomes repetitive and cause for concern.

If your baby is not sleeping well, spitting up his food, or even putting everything he can get his hands on in his mouth, there may be reasons why he is doing it. Maybe what we believe to be habit may be a sign of something more serious.

Let's look at some of the repetitive actions that can constitute a habit in a newborn, and see what we can do as caregivers to support baby and improve his quality of life.

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15 Baby Always Sleeps On Tummy

via youtube.com
via youtube.com

As new parents we are brain washed with the knowledge that baby should never sleep on his tummy. Numerous international studies  have proven, time and time again, that putting baby on his back to sleep will greatly reduce the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). So we follow instructions and place baby on his back during the night and during naps, all the while making sure he is breathing properly.

But what if baby categorically refuses to fall asleep on his back? It makes sense. Imagine how baby feels; he was in a fetal position for so long, then cuddled in your arms, and suddenly set on his back, in such a vulnerable position. What if he loves his tummy time, and will only close his eyes if he is put in this position that apparently makes him feel at ease, but that is so dangerous for him during sleep time?

If your baby does not like sleeping on his back he will let you know loud and clear. Don't you sometime just wish you could explain things to him? "Hey little guy, you have to sleep on your back because you can otherwise stop breathing."

Why it is damaging:

According to Heath Canada, the peak risk for SIDS is around 2-4 months of age, and 95% of cases occur before 6 months. So if baby wants to sleep on his tummy, a 12 month mark would be the safest to keep in mind.

As parents, we are well aware of the risks, but what can we do about it?

What you can do: 

  • keep baby on his back when holding him in your arms
  • put him on his tummy and gently turn him over when he is in a deep sleep
  • it is possible to place baby on his tummy during naps if he is supervised
  • swaddle baby to limit free movement (not too tight!)
  • once baby rolls over on his own, there is little that can be done during the night except remove all blanket and padding from the crib

14 Sucks His Hands Constantly

via wikimedia.org
via wikimedia.org

A baby is born with an innate need to suckle, after all, it is what will keep him alive. As the weeks pass, you may notice baby beginning to put his hands in his mouth and sucking on them, all the while drooling all over himself.

A baby sucking on his hands may be a sign of teething, or perhaps he is just discovering his surroundings. Babies can begin teething at around 3-4 months, and the relief he may get from sucking his fingers can be comforting to him.

In fact, a baby's mouth has more nerve endings per square millimetre than any other part of its body. It is no wonder he is so interested in the new sensations this action can bring.

Why it is damaging: 

As baby grows, the hand sucking can develop into thumb sucking, which many dental experts advise to limit as much as possible. In fact, as baby's teeth start to come in, prolonged sucking of the hand or fingers, can cause the teeth to be pushed around, causing an overbite or an under-bite as the child develops.

Also, if baby gets bored of his fingers, he will quickly start looking for other things to put in his mouth, and this can be much more dangerous.

What you can do: 

  • satisfy baby's need to suck in a different way (ie soother, or a collapsing bottle nipple- at least these can be removed as he grows)
  • breastfeed on cue as long as possible
  • allow baby to suck your fingers
  •  use other soothing alternatives (rocking baby, patting baby's back)
  • when baby is old enough, distract and redirect those little hands with another activity

13 Baby Puts Everything In His Mouth

via brightside.me
via brightside.me

An object in a baby's mouth is a natural evolution from sucking on fingers, and sometimes babies may skip the hands altogether and go straight to objects.  The difference between sucking on a body part, like fingers and hands, and putting a foreign object in the mouth is evident. You cannot swallow your hand....you cannot choke on a foot... This is what experts call the "mouthing" stage.

Baby will begin putting odd things and toys in his mouth because he is curious. He is discovering new things, shapes, textures, taste, including the dirty remote control and the soil in the plant you keep near the patio door.

Despite how careful you may be, especially once baby starts moving on his own, he will ALWAYS find something. I've seen babies pick up tiny pieces of lint and licking the bottom of shoes...yup!

Why it is damaging:

If what baby is putting in his mouth is limited to chew toys and larger items kept within his reach, it does not necessarily pose a danger to him. However, consider all the smaller objects you have lying around, including pet food and plants... Or if baby is in daycare and shares toys with other children with the same unhealthy habit. Germs and bacteria, as well as small items cannot not only cause your baby to get sick, but may also suffocate him.

What you can do:

  • remove all dangerous items form your home/from baby's reach
  • only keep large, clean and safe toys at his reach
  • test the size of a toy by seeing if it goes through a toilet paper roll, if it does it is not safe to keep near baby
  • give baby safe options, like teethers

12 Has Sleep Apnea (Abnormal Breathing)

via telegraph.co.uk

One of the biggest fears for a parent is discovering their precious little one is not breathing well, especially while sleeping. It scares us because if baby can't breathe properly on his own, there is little a parent can do about it in an emergency situation. 

This is particularly the case if baby is suffering from sleep apnea, a sleep related disorder that causes reductions and pauses during baby's sleep, that increase during rapid eye movement sleep (REM).

According to sleepeducation.org this disorder has two main causes:

  • a developmental problem caused by an immature brainstem
  • a secondary problem that is caused by another medical condition

In addition, an infant suffering from sleep apnea can have either

  • partial reductions in breathing are called “hypopneas OR
  • complete pauses in breathing are called “apneas"

Unfortunately this condition is often under-diagnosed and it may be one of the main reasons why a baby does not sleep through the night.

To make matters more complicated, experts have to deal with 3 different types of sleep apnea. Each can be generally associated with the length of a pregnancy, the size of a baby, and whether the infant was born to term or not.

Why it is damaging:

Sleep apnea can be a cause of very serious complications in a developing baby, and may cause:

  • hypoxemia (lack of oxygen in blood)
  • a slower hearbeat (bradycardia)
  • the need for resuscitation
  • developmental delays
  • crankiness and irritability

Studies have found however, babies suffering from this type of sleeping disorder rarely have any long-term complications, and it usually goes away as the child develops.

What you can do:

  • seek a sleep specialist
  • baby may need a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine
  • may need medication
  • be prepared and learn infant CPR

It is essential to note that this is not a medical article, so if you suspect your child to have a medical condition such as sleep apnea, please consult your pedatrician right away.

11 Baby Jerks While Sleeping (Sleep Myoclonus)

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via youtube.com

You may not have heard of sleep myoclonus, but if your baby involuntarily twitches or suddenly jerks in his sleep, it may be affecting him and the quality of sleep he is getting.

Benign neonatal sleep myoclonus (BNSM) is a disorder that can be mistaken for seizures during the infant's first few weeks of life. The site emedicine.medscape.com describes it as, "lightning like jerks of the extremities that exclusively occur during sleep; it is not correlated with epilepsy. " 

It is a benign condition and can go away on its own within the infant's first year, but can last up to 3 years. Nonetheless, seeing your child jerk in like-seizure movements can be very alarming, especially if it occurs on a daily basis. To the unprofessional eye, it can sometimes appear as an epileptic seizure leading to unnecessary hospital visits and examinations.

It is fortunately not associated with EEG (electroencephalogram) abnormalities, and children with normal neurological parameters can be affected.

Why it is damaging: 

Although benign neonatal sleep myoclonus will not harm the baby, and will often disappear within the first 12 months of the infant's life, it can surely give parents a scare the first time it happens!

It may also be as sign of a more serious condition.

What you can do:

  • gently wake the baby if it continues for a long while (up to 10 minutes)
  • observe the baby to ensure he is breathing properly
  • contact your paediatrician if you suspect any other symptoms and to rule out any other sleeping disorder
  • medication may be given in more extreme cases
  • an indicator of a true seizure is, abnormal eye movement and body movements- contact the E.R. in this case.

10 Baby Doesn't Poo

via livestrong.com
via livestrong.com

Constipation in babies is as upsetting for the baby as it is for the entire family. It is often accompanied by crankiness, irritability and tummy aches...and it is a waiting game. There have been cases of newborns going 20 days without pooing, and although this may seem too long, it is more common than one might think. Why? Well, it depends on several factors, including if the baby is breast fed or bottle fed, as well as baby's age.

However, if you just brought baby home and he hasn't had a bowl movement in 3 days....it is a good idea to contact the paediatrician. If we want to dot all our i's....experts say breast-fed babies should be pooing up to 6 times a day

There are many causes for baby being constipated, with some of the most common being:

  • may not be getting enough fluid
  • may be adjusting to life outside of the womb
  • may actually anticipate pain and hold it in
  • still needs to strengthen the muscles needed to push

So when does a parent know it is time to help out?

If your baby is crying in pain, has fever, is vomiting, or turning red trying to push, then perhaps he needs a hand. Also, although constipation can be a normal, on-going or temporary phase in an infant's life, it may also be a symptom of something more serious.

Why it is damaging: 

  • baby can develop blood in his stools if bowel movements are not regular
  • it may be a milk-protein allergy
  • may be dyschezia (uncoordinated muscle movements)
  • may be hirschsprung disease (unable to contract muscles to push poo out)

What you can do: 

  • seek a paediatrician's advice if baby is in noticeable pain
  • you may give a glycerin rectal suppository after consulting with a doctor
  • if he is fed with formula make sure the portioning is right
  • add fresh fruits and vegetables if baby is transitioning to solids
  • gently massage tummy and exercise legs to stimulate bowel movements
  • can apply some rectal stimulation if the stool is hard.

9 Baby Rocks Himself

via youtube.com
via youtube.com

When we see baby rocking himself, we may think it is cute. A self soothing action which most parents may actually even find relieving. “Oh look, baby is entertaining himself, maybe he wants to rock himself to sleep.” In many cases this is actually true. In fact, the rocking motion, if not done excessively can also be considered a milestone as baby tries to figure out how to push himself forward.

The repetitive motion of rocking is a form of self-soothing babies discover at around 6 months, and usually grow out of it by the age of 3, or earlier.

These are the main reasons your baby may be rocking himself, and they are not all negative!

They generally rock on all fours, or while sitting to:

This is where a distinction must be made however. Is your child’s rocking considered normal, or does it stem from something more serious?

Experts say, if your child’s rocking appears playful, and baby makes eye contact and tries to engage, there is really noting to be worried about. However, if baby’s motions are more mechanical, and appears to be going into a trance, then maybe there is more to it.

Why it is damaging:

Keeping baby safe is crucial in these cases, so clearing a sage area for him is important. It may also be a sign of a more serious issue.

 What you can do:

8 Baby Gags When Fed

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via youtube.com

Let’s not assume that a baby gags only when beginning to eat solid foods. True, when an infant is introduced to something new, there may be an instinctive reaction to refuse it, gag, and spit it out. In reality, there are a myriad of reasons why baby may be gagging, some more worrisome than others.

Newborns are actually born with a natural gagging reflex that prevents them from swallowing foreign objects. This reflex is extremely sensitive the first few weeks of life, and slowly becomes less so as they grow, and learn to eat solid food. In fact, all babies are born with the reflex to sticking their tongue forward when the back of their throat is touched.

Nursing babies, whether bottle or breast fed also have a tendency to gag because:

Why it is damaging:

Babies are impressionable and we never want to scare them intentionally. If your baby is gagging however, you may panic, or scream and this may deter baby from eating the next time.

The situation can worsen if the gagging turns into choking.

What you can do :

7 He Wants His Bottle Through The Night

via onesky.org
via onesky.org

How often have you heard this one? It is a difficult habit to break simply because it makes everyone’s night easier...If baby sleeps well, everyone does. It is obviously not an issue if baby is being breast fed.

The reality is that an infant should not be using a bottle in the crib at all, unless supervised and for a short amount of time. Paediatricians agree, it is not a habit you want your baby to get used to.

Read below and decide for yourself if the feeling of independence you get when baby starts self-feeding is worth all the risks. In some cases however, it may not be the milk baby wants at all, and may just want to continue sucking.

One of the primary reasons so many experts are against it is tooth decay. Although both breast milk and infant formula are void of added sugars, the natural sugars will still, on occasion cause cavities....even if baby has only one or two teeth. Something interesting to note, is that saliva production also slows down at night, and there is therefore no natural “cleaning action”. So basically, whatever is deposited on those little teeth and gums will stay there throughout the night.

A bottle can also act as a soother, and this is not a major problem if the baby is in the company of an adult, but perhaps a different and less damaging soothing option would be better.

Ear infections can also be a result of this habit. Unfortunately, there is a chance that drinking lying down can cause the liquids to travel through to the ear cavity.

The most obvious consequence of baby drinking while on his back is choking. Whereas an ear infection and cavity can be cured, in the more extreme cases, a choking baby may not recover at all.

Why it is damaging:

What you can do: 

6 Baby Crosses His Eyes


Many babies are born with slightly crossed eyes, and generally it is nothing to worry about up to about the age of 4 months. Most babies’ eyes will gradually develop normally as they begin to put objects and people into focus.

More rarely however, baby’s eyes may not develop normally, or may on occasion be crossed. According to both the American Optometric Association and American Ophthalmological Association, all children should have their first examination around 9 months of age.

This being said, if you notice unusual eye turning you should consider having your baby examined before the 9 months. It is a very delicate time for the development of the eye and any corrections should be made immediately for a diagnosis.

In fact, baby may be diagnosed with the following:

Strabismus is when eyes do not line up, or when one or both eyes wander. Baby's eye can wander inward, outward, up, or down. For normal vision to develop, baby needs both eyes to work together, so if a baby has a crossed or wandering eye, he will get a different picture from each eye. Unfortunately, the weaker eye will "give-up", and this can lead to amblyopia, which is even more serious than strabismus.

There is also the possibility of a less serious issue called  pseudoesotropia in babies. This is more of an optical illusion that is caused by baby's flat nose.

Interesting facts: babies have flat noses when they are born so they can nurse better! An infants eyes are also more wide set, and this may also cause eyes to appear crossed....although it is not really so.

It is logical to assume that good vision will help the baby develop properly and help in all developmental milestones. After all, how will baby learn to pick up an object or begin to crawl if he is unable to focus properly?

Why it is damaging:

  • baby can develop other developmental deficiencies if not treated

What you can do:

  • book a visit with the eye doctor at 9 months of age
  • visit the doctor around 4 months if you notice eyes are wandering.

5 Baby Refuses To Nap

via brightside.me
via brightside.me

There are many reasons why a baby won't nap. Maybe he is hungry, or has a soiled diaper, or perhaps there are too many things happening around him.

These are all normal reasons why baby won't close his eyes...but what if baby does not want to nap at all? What can a parent do then? Let's face it, baby won't nap just because you want him to, but establishing a routine can help.

As with older children and adults, if the brain is used to a certain pattern it knows what to expect and will be more prepared to accept it.

It is perfectly normal for baby not to sleep well the first few weeks. There is so much to get used to, and day and night don't exist for him. Plus he is trying to understand what that feeling of "need" is: the need to eat, the need to be held...

As baby  grows, he will generally need 3-4 naps a day, but this is not a written rule! It will ultimately depend on how well he sleeps during the night, and what HIS sleep pattern is.

But what effects can lack of sleep have on the little one?

Why it is damaging:

  • baby can become irritable
  • baby may not feed regularly
  • over-tiredness may have other consequences (ie hand to face gestures, fluttering eyes)
  • baby may become more "clingy"

What you can do:

  • establish a daily routine
  • make sure his needs are met before nap time (fed, dry diaper)
  • use a stroller to rock him
  • turn on a "white noise" like low sounding vacuum
  • don't wait for him to be cranky
  • avoid exciting activities before nap time
  • make sure there are no medical conditions impeding baby to sleep.

4 Baby Scratches At His Face

via babygaga.com
via babygaga.com

We often notice our little one rubbing or scratching at his face during the course of the day. This generally happens when baby is overtired, or as a precursor to sleep. It may also be that a newborn develops cradle cap, baby acne, or even eczema, all of which can be itchy.

Scratching is also normal because a newborn has very little control over his voluntary actions. For the first few weeks, baby has no idea he has any body parts, his objective is being fed.

This habit is not particularly damaging and can be quite easily broken with a couple of simple solutions. Nonetheless, it can still harm baby.

Why it is damaging:

  • baby can scratch his eyes (may damage his cornea)
  • scratch may become infected
  • baby can feel helpless (in case of severe itching due to a skin ailment)

What you can do:

  • use mittens
  • clip or file baby's nails regularly
  • see pediatrician for a hydorcortizone cream if necessary (for skin ailments).

3 He Wants To Be Nursed To Sleep

via nursingnurture.com
via nursingnurture.com

Who doesn't love to be cuddled, drifting off to sleep in the process? Breast-fed babies can develop this one habit quickly as most newborns WILL fall asleep while nursing. So what can a mother do if baby "confuses" a real nipple for a pacifier?

Nursing baby to sleep is developmentally appropriate and the continuous sucking action, even when there is no milk left, has positive effects on baby emotionally and physically. Perhaps the damage this one habit can have is more for mom rather than for baby. Not all women will have the time or patience to wait for baby to fall asleep at the breast, especially if she has other children and has to take care of chores.

Why it is damaging:

  • no one else will be able to do it but mom
  • it is extremely time consuming as you may have to do it several times a day
  • it will be more difficult to wean baby
  • baby will associate feeding with falling asleep

What you can do:

  • have someone else put baby to sleep
  • opt for a pacifier if necessary
  • wean baby earlier.

2 He Wants To Be Held All The Time

via brightside.me
via brightside.me

Holding baby the first few days and weeks might be all you want to do. You waited so long and finally baby is here, the excitement and novelty is still so fresh. Just you wait moma....wait until he starts gaining weight, wait until he feels so insecure on the ground that all he wants is your arms!

This is definitely a habit that will not benefit either of you as baby becomes bigger. It is not about spoiling your baby because being close is emotionally beneficial for both of you, and it is not about ignoring your baby's needs either. After-all, baby is just starting to figure out he is not part of mom anymore. Babies need attention and they demand it too, a parent only has to gauge how to go about it, without suffering the consequences.

Why it is damaging:

  • you won't have time for anything else
  • you will soon feel the physical consequences of always holding baby
  • baby will feel insecure if he is not in someone's arms

What you can do:

  • stay close to him if he wants to be held
  • distract him with other things to keep his hands busy
  • don't wait for baby to cry to pick him up (you reinforce his calling).

1 Baby Bangs His Head On A Solid Object

via youtube.com
via youtube.com

This is a very scary and dangerous habit that may have more serious reasons behind it. In many cases it may just give a baby pleasure if not done in a violent manner. Baby may be playing and suddenly realizes that such an odd move makes him and others laugh... thereby providing positive reinforcement for the habit.

According to the website drgreene.com, up to 20% of children head bang for a certain time, with the majority being boys. Growing up is a journey of discovery, and head banging may be part of it for some babies.

As with rocking and thumb-sucking, head banging can also stem from the need to be soothed and rocked in an adult's arms, but a healthy baby never head bangs with the intention of harming himself.

For other babies, head banging may be a way to release tension, or mild pain due to teething. Some do it out of frustration or anger when they are unable to express themselves in other ways.

A parent's worse fear of course is if the head banging becomes an unhealthy habitual action, that can be a symptom of a much more serious issue. In fact, if head banging is accompanied by other symptoms associated with autism, a parent should seek immediate help.

Experts from different paediatric associations agree that if a baby is not doing any of the following by the age of 14 months, the habitual head banging can be a sign of autism:

  • not pointing to get another person to look in a specific direction
  • lack of gaze-following (looking in the same direction as another person)
  • does not pretend play

Why it is damaging:

  • baby can hurt himself if the motion is continuous and forceful
  • it may be a sign of a more serious issue

What you can do:

  • don't give your baby particular attention when he does it
  • create a safe environment for him
  • distract baby with a different activity
  • call the paediatrician if you are worried.

Sources: healthykids.org, sleepeducation.org, emedicine.medscape.com, drgreene.com, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, healthcanada.ca

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