What does headbanging look like?

Your child may:

  • Bang their head repeatedly against their pillow, mattress or wall of the cot.
  • Move their head side to side while lying down.
  • An older child may get on all fours and rock back and forth to bang their head.
  • Headbanging may be accompanied by humming, singing or some other noise.

Why is my child headbanging?

The main reasons experts believe infants and toddlers head bang include:

  • Headbanging can be a form of self-soothing. The noise and pressure may be comforting.
  • Applying repetitive pressure can help relieve pain – your child may be teething or have an ear infection.
  • They may be frustrated and headbanging is a physical outlet.
  • They may be trying to get your attention.

How do I manage my child’s headbanging?

  • Some children are more inclined to headbang at night in the cot. Try waiting until your little one is tuckered out before you lay them down, so they don’t spend too long awake in their cot.
  • A wind-down routine for the night may help soothe your child, so they are calmer and less inclined to headbang.
  • Make sure your cot is up to standard and complies with the Australian safety standards.
  • Look out for their wellbeing. Children are more likely to headbang during times of stress or anxiety. Try to comfort your little one if they seem upset, angry or are experiencing change like moving house.
  • As your child grows, help equip them with the language to express themselves verbally.
  • Keep calm while your child is headbanging. Explain to them after how to better handle distressing emotions next time.
  • Don’t behave overly concerned or panicked. Try to remain steady so as not to worry your child further or give the behaviour too much attention.
  • Distract your little one from triggers. For example, you may expect them to headbang if you deny them a cookie, so instead of just saying no, try to say ‘No, but…’ and distract them with an alternative like playing a game together.
  • If your child headbangs in their cot, check the bolts and screws regularly to make sure the cot is still stable.
  • Do not add anything extra to the cot for ‘padding’. Extra blankets or soft toys can be sleeping hazards.

If you are concerned about the frequency, severity or underlying cause of your child’s headbanging, consult your doctor.

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