People often ask you where you were when a significant event happens- things like an earthquake or a flood.
I can still remember the night it first happened. The exhaustion of having a newborn was real. Life-changing real! I was wearing old yoga pants and a dirty t-shirt with spit-up on it.
The lack of sleep had taken its toll on me, and I was barely capable of recognizing my name – let alone remembering the last time I had showered with no interruptions.
The cries began, the painful screams, and the arching of my baby’s back. It wasn’t a wet-diaper cry or a cry for hunger.
It was something different.
It made me wonder why babies arching back while sleeping?
I mean, I follow all the right rules. Breastfeeding, check. No cocktails or mimosas for me, check. The room is not too hot or too cold, check. Quiet house, no noise, the dog put away in his kennel to be quiet, check. Put the baby on his back to sleep, check.
What is causing this? Is it something that I’m doing wrong?
Definition of baby arching back
Arching of the back is exactly what it sounds like it is. The baby is moving its body into a forced, curved, arch-like position. If lying down, he is no longer lying in a flat position but is now squirming and moving to the back.
The baby may extend the head and neck back as far as he can; the hips also move into a forced backward position. In the video below you can see what does baby arching back look like:
The hands are sometimes utilized as well. The baby can throw its hands and arms up in the air.
This movement is very dangerous if the baby is being held because the baby can be dropped as most people are supporting the head and the hips.
The reason why a baby arching back while sleeping
There are multiple reasons; it can be a sign of emotions, physical illness, or psychological development. Here are some of the possible reasons:
For newborns and tiny infants, the ability to express feelings is not possible through a variety of means.
Emotions are usually communicated through crying, cooing, or silence.
While cooing and silence are welcomed sounds for parents, crying can be difficult to determine the mean of the cry. A baby may cry to express a wet diaper, boredom, hunger, and frustration.
According to Stanford Children Health, most newborns sleep 14 to 16 hours a day. Tiredness, and the attempts to fight it, can be a major reason why a baby arches his back.
The burning sensation that adults feel after eating spicy foods is similar in infants. Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD) is possible for a baby to have even though they are only fed formula or breastmilk.
The sphincter muscles in the stomach are too relaxed, which allows the stomach acid and milk to travel back up the esophagus.
This can cause increased crying and screaming, baby arching back while sleeping, coughing, wet and messy burps, possible vomiting, and fussiness during feeding times.
You can check the video below about babies who have colic and back arching:
One of the lesser known reasons for arching the back is due to kernicterus. As bilirubin levels rise, it shows up as yellowing of the skin.
The yellowing is also known as jaundice. If the levels are too high, damage in the brain can occur causing seizure-like spasms known as kernicterus.
Most newborns have some jaundice right after birth, and this is normal. Only if the jaundice is not treated will problems arise.
Stuffy noses and small airways can lead to sleep apnea for some baby arching back while sleeping. He can suddenly jerk into a position that enables him to breathe better.
This movement can open the nasal passages and allow the lungs to expand better. Without it, the baby may breathe very loudly or snore.
Pain from Nerve Injury
The birthing process can be traumatic for a baby. Those who are born prematurely or have decreased weight may be at risk for nerve injury. The radiating pain is causing the baby to move his body as a reflex to avoid pain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, Cerebral palsy is a movement disorder of muscle strength or posture. The body is unable to move in standard ways, and it can have problems with floppiness or excessive tightness of muscles. Straight posture may not be possible.
Arm and leg positions may appear to be unnatural. If a baby stretches frequently and arches his back for no apparent reason multiple times a day, it is essential to have the baby checked for this condition.
Autism is a case of slowed or altered neurological progress of a child’s development. Social interactions can be difficult to endure, and a baby can arch his back to avoid close encounters.
This behavior can be seen with strangers and even parents if the baby is upset. Infantile Spasms is the official term for spasms that are not diagnosed with any other official name.
Grand Mal Seizures are possible in babies of any age. Seizures can be caused by difficult births, prenatal problems such as Preeclampsia, drug abuse by the mother, drug withdrawal for the baby, extremely low blood sugar, and high fevers.
If the baby exhibits unusual arching of the back and is not responsive to immediate calming techniques, it is crucial that you reach out to emergency medical help immediately.
How to stop baby arching back
A happy baby equals a happy momma!
The best way to know how to stop baby arching back is to focus on the least interactive ways and increase them in the most interactive ways.
Of course, the first thing to remember is not to panic. Yes, even if you just spent a long time researching all of the many topics above. Do. Not. Panic!
Many of the severe arching causes of a baby’s back are very rare and should not make one lose control. Here are four C’s of quieting a baby.
Just like an angry hornet, a baby can sense when a person is upset. It is important to have a quiet and calm environment for the baby to sleep.
But wait, you’re probably thinking. There are pets in the house, two other kids, and sometimes I need to fix dinner.
By bringing a sense of calmness to the home, the baby can sense that and adjust. Just think to yourself, “I can provide calmness to my baby by taking 15 or 30 seconds and do some quiet, meditative breathing – even if I have to do it on the toilet because that is the only place I can escape to.”
A white noise machine or a fan can also bring calmness to the room and drown out the sounds of the noisy siblings. Quiet classical music, or instrumental music without words, is also soothing to a baby.
There are two types of cuddling. One, of which, is holding the baby close to me.
This touch can be skin-to-skin contact like what was done right after the baby was born. It also can be a close hug with my arms gently wrapped around the baby.
The other type of cuddling is by swaddling the baby in a warm blanket. Swaddling is an easy and can be performed by taking a baby blanket and turning it sideways into a diamond-shaped position.
Place the baby at the top of the diamond, and then tightly bring the right side of the blanket over the baby and tuck it under the left side of the body.
You will gently want to bring the left and right arms down while you tuck the blanket over.
Then fold the top blanket up and make sure the blanket does not go past the mid-chest area.
Lastly, fold the left side of the blanket tightly over the right side. This swaddling brings an in-womb feeling which helps the baby to calm down.
Is the room hot or cold?
Is the baby sweating under the pile of blankets and sleepers?
Just as I would throw the covers off if I get too hot, the baby wants to do the same thing also. If it is a hot summer’s day, dress the baby in a light sleeper or let him sleep in a diaper.
In the story of the Princess and the Pea, the princess could feel a tiny pea and could not get comfortable.
Sometimes a baby’s mattress is not comfortable for the baby. If the bed is old, consider replacing it with a new one. Or you can try different places for sleeping.
Some babies sleep better in their car seat (that has been brought inside the home) or in a baby swing.
It is important to remember to only let baby sleep in something that is designed for safety and to never leave your child unattended.
Other things to recall when trying to comfort your baby and stop him from arching his back is to consider his diet.
If the baby is drinking formula, he may not be tolerating it. Some children need to have soy or easy digestive formulas.
Breastfed babies can also struggle with the breastmilk.
Sometimes the mothers need to remove acid-based foods (like tomatoes and citrus fruits), spicy foods, caffeine, and fried or greasy foods from their diets.
Cow’s milk that is drunk by the mother can also upset a baby’s tummy through the breastmilk. It is essential to review the diet very carefully to see if something is hurting the baby.
If the baby has been diagnosed with acid reflux or GERD, here are some helpful suggestions to implement immediately:
- Burp frequently during feedings
- Feed the baby more frequently, but in smaller amounts
- Decrease the size of the bottle nipple, so the baby drinks it slower
- Older babies only: Use rice cereal to thicken the formula so it won’t travel so quickly up the esophagus
- Have the baby sleep upright with a wedge or place in a car seat
- Eliminate distractions during feedings
- Speak to your doctor about medication to reduce the acid indigestion
Just because a baby is arching its back does not mean that something is wrong with them. For those who do struggle with acid reflux, there are multiple methods of treating it. The good news is most babies that do this will outgrow it by their first birthday.
So the goal for today is as follows: take a shower, love and cuddle my baby, and remember to stay calm and breathe! I am a great mother, and I’m taking awesome care of my baby!
- What to Do if Your Baby Wakes Up Every Hour at Night?
- Breastfed Baby Won’t Take Formula? 9 Useful Advices to Fix That
- Best Formula for Spit Up. Here’s Your Ultimate Solution!
- Newborn-Sleep Patterns
- What are the symptoms of reflux in babies?
- Cerebral palsy
- What are the symptoms of kernicterus?