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Baby Hitting Himself On His Head – Why?

by Arlyn
(Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

We are concerned about our 10-month-old boy who recently started hitting himself on his head. It seems he does this when he gets excited. Our son would hit the right side of his head with his right hand and sometimes both sides with both hands. And it seems he is doing this more often now.

We’ve read many forums where other parents are experiencing the same thing. However, I have not seen in these forums what explains this behavior and if it is normal.

Should we be concerned? Is this a normal behavior? What is the cause or explanation of this behavior?

Your advice is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

Baby Help Line:

Baby Hitting Himself – Normal Or Not?

You’re completely right that this is a common behavior, especially at around 1 year old. Babies hit themselves, bite themselves, bang their heads against the wall or floor etc. It looks awful, but is usually their way of coping with frustration and anger. Often, the baby does the same (hit or bite) their parents too when angry with them or even just for fun and to see the reaction.

And as you mention, they can also do this out of excitement; another strong feeling. Another possibility is pain-relief, so having his ears checked could be a good idea, even though if you for sure can derive the behaviour to excitementand he is showing no other signs of illness, then I think you most likely have already identifed the reason for his hitting.

You don’t have to worry. It is normal and it passes. Since your boy in now 10 months old, he is starting to understand words, and you can say “no” and gently stop him from hitting himself. You can also show him with his hand how to “pat gently” or something like that. BUT don’t make a lot of fuss about it – if your reactions are strong, or if he gets a lot of attention for this behavior, you might end up actually reinforcing it! So unless he seems to be hurting himself, try ignoring the behavior and focus on distracting him instead.

Hitting the head all through the day with no apparent reason and falling behind developmental milestones would be a reason for concern and should be discussed with at pediatrician, but that does not seem to be the case at all with your son.

I’ve noticed for example that talking even to quite young babies (at around 1-1.5 years) in a very engaged way, confirming their feeling without judging can really make them calmer. At least some times. But again, any kind of positive distraction is usually the most effective way with young children if you want to reduce a certain behaviour.

But above all – don’t worry! Your boy is learning how to deal with his emotions, and that takes time. (A whole life time, really… ;-) ) Just make sure he doesn’t hurt himself or someone else. And don’t yell at him.

Hope this helps!
Paula

More Babies That Hit

Find comments below.

Comments

Feb 11, 2012

11 mo old boy doing the same
by: Amy


I have been searching every where to find an answer too… Thank you so much!!! I think my son is getting mad when I cook and he can’t see what I am doing..


Apr 05, 2012

No baby ….

by: Gabby 19 yr old mother of 11 mnth old


I think is normal my baby started doing that wen he was 10 months old He does it when he’s tired most of the time


Apr 30, 2012

Relax
by: Stan


Hi Arlyn. I am a father of 4 and I have delt with this behavior before. If your baby plays peekaboo with you then you have nothing to worry about. Its just the babies way of getting attention or their own way. Most would probably tell you to jently take the babies hand way and in a polite manor say no no. I disagree. I think the best thing to do is let it pass. Ignore it. The more attention you pay to it, the more your baby will use it to get what he/she wants. Remember babies are human and if they notice that something get them what they want then they will continue to use it. Its a basic instinct of survival. If this is your first baby then take my advise and concentrate more on enjoying as much time as you can with your child aspecialy if it’s going to be your last one. Hope this helps good luck.


Apr 30, 2012

Relax
by: Stan


Hi Arlyn. I am a father of 4 and I have delt with this behavior before. If your baby plays peekaboo with you then you have nothing to worry about. Its just the babies way of getting attention or their own way. Most would probably tell you to jently take the babies hand way and in a polite manor say no no. I disagree. I think the best thing to do is let it pass. Ignore it. The more attention you pay to it, the more your baby will use it to get what he/she wants. Remember babies are human and if they notice that something get them what they want then they will continue to use it. Its a basic instinct of survival. If this is your first baby then take my advise and concentrate more on enjoying as much time as you can with your child aspecialy if it’s going to be your last one. Hope this helps good luck.


Jun 28, 2012

same here

by: Brenda


I was worried that one of my 10 month old twins had a tick. he just started hitting his head with his hand and it’s usually as I am trying to get him to sleep where as his brother sings himself to sleep.


Dec 27, 2012

Concerned also…

by: Anonymous


My son (5 mos) just started doing this within the last couple of days. He makes a fist and hits himself in the head repeatedly while trying to go to sleep. I was concerned also. I remember my nephew (now 3) banging his head on the bed to go to sleep, but the doctor said not to worry. I guess I am concerned that the behavior is actually painful. Reading some of the posts, I guess it is the same as pinching yourself to alleviate pain elsewhere in the body. I sure hope it passes.


Jan 15, 2013

BABY HITTING HIMSELF

by: GIE


MY BABY IS 1 YR.AND 3 MOS. OLD AND STILL HITTING HIS HEAD ESPECIALLY WHEN HE FEELS HE DID SOMETHING BAD OR SOMEBODY IS SHOUTING AT HIM,SOMEBODY TOLD ME IT’S NOT NORMAL, I’M WORRIED.


Jan 15, 2013

To Gie

by: Paula (Baby Help Line)


Hi Gie,

This is very common behavior, so don’t worry. Babies and young toddlers are learning to deal with their frustrations and they may hit themselves, bang their heads, even bite themselves. I’ve seen it in many babies and toddlers.

Try to engage in your young toddler’s feelings, confirming them (“I can understand that you are angry”) and try to comfort him rather than getting upset about how the anger is expressed.

Unless he risks really hurting himself or someone else, then you don’t have to focus on the behavior. If you want to make it stop faster, then rather focus on positive consquences the minute he stops with the behavior. Then pick him up, hug him, tell him what a big boy he is who can be angry without banging his head etc.

He might be a bit too young to understand that yet, but over then months to come reinforcing the positive behavior will be far more effective than trying to force him to stop.

But above all – you baby is normal, so don’t worry!

Paula


Sep 11, 2013

My 16 month old hits himself in the head.
by: Anonymous


I am amazed this is so common, I have three children and it’s only my youngest(16 months)that is hitting himself in his head and just recently banging his head on things.It’s got to be natural to think something else more serious could be wrong but the only times he does it is when he wants to lead me somewhere and I try to redirect him and he gets mad.So I guess it is frustration or a tantrum.


Oct 17, 2013

So glad I found this!
by: Jess


This is day #2 for me dealing with this new behavior. My son is 10 1/2 months and has started either banging his fists into his mouth, or uses whatever object his has in his hand to bang into his mouth (even hitting his teeth). He does it when he is angry, which is every time I change him! I was about ready to cry this morning, telling my husband that I think our son has anger issues or something. I was racking my brain to think of how he possibly could have learned such an awful way to deal…thank God I don’t have to blame myself anymore! Glad to see that this is a normal stage. I don’t know if I should ignore it though, or try the calm soothing voice. It seems that when I try to calm him, or give him kisses he gets angrier. I hope it passes soon though because it’s not easy to see him do this!!!


Nov 25, 2013

My 1yr. old bangs his head on floor
by: Danny


My son just started this behavior on his 1st birthday as well. [Banging head on floor and sometimes toys when frustrated or tired]. I don’t really think it’s any thing major to worry about at this stage in their lives. It is disturbing to watch, but it seems to be fairly normal behavior. As mentioned above, I tell my wife all the time I think it’s very important to not give him a big overly-dramatic response to his actions or he will continue to do it, even more, on these basis alone. When he does it I generally just watch closely to make sure he’s not actually hurting himself,(which he only does very rarely and I think it’s on accident when he actually does), and very calmly tell him “no-no”, as to not give him an overly-exciting response. Sometimes, also I believe it has to do with his teeth cutting in. And of course in that case we give him something for it and it tends to help some.
I truly believe he will grow out of it in a few months if we continue on this path, and he will find different ways to deal with his anger and frustrations. This is a time in their lives where much is changing and once they get settled in as toddlers they should stop. Hope this helps… and good luck with your little ones!


Mar 03, 2014

2 yr old hitting himself

by: Brenda


Glad I found these posts. However, my grandson just started hitting himself in the head the past couple weeks and he is 2 1/2 years old.

Is this common for a 2 1/2 year old as well or just for the 1 1/2 year olds and younger? Seems to do it when he is tired or frustrated in trying to express himself verbally. I raised 3 of my own children and never had this issue so I found it quite alarming.


Mar 03, 2014

Still common
by: Paula(Baby Help Line)


Hi Brenda,

It is still very common up until around 4 years old or even to somewhere around the fifth birthday to have problems dealing with anger and frustration. And the two-three year old really are often the ones acting out the most.

As I said in an earlier comment, try to avoid focusing on it and instead praise and acknowledge your grandson the second he stops with the behavior; that will help him get through this faster. Remember that he isn’t being mean or rude (or weird) he is just exploding in emotions and has not learned how to deal with his feelings yet.

Make sure he is in a safe environment and can’t hurt himself. Stay with him, stay calm and show him your love and appreciation every time he starts calming down.

You can read more about why babies hit themselves here

Hope this helps,

Paula


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