Help! My Child Bangs Their Head to Go to Sleep

baby on crib

Thunk! Thunk! Each night you hear a rhythmic thumping coming from your baby’s room, and it’s happening so often that it’s causing you alarm. If your child bangs their head to go to sleep, you’re not alone. Let’s take a look at why the headbanging is happening and what can be done about it.

What is causing my child to bang their head to go to sleep?

When a baby keeps hitting their head on their crib, it’s alarming to parents. And, you’re likely here because you’re dealing with it right now. The first thing you need to know is that headbanging is common.

Headbanging episodes are typically short—around 15-minutes or so—but can also last over an hour in duration. When your baby keeps hitting their head on their crib, they’re often attempting to self-soothe.

Why headbanging happens

Your little one is banging their head on their crib in an attempt to soothe themself, which means that something else is going on. While it may just be their way of going to sleep on their own, there are other reasons why your child bangs their head to go to sleep.

Babies and toddlers will often bang their heads on their cribs because they’re in pain, frustrated, seeking attention, or have an underlying medical issue. Babies aren’t able to express themselves through speech, so when they experience dull pain—like an earache or tooth eruption—they may turn to physicality. Toddlers, who are learning independence, may use head banging as a way of expressing anger or frustration.

However, there are times when the headbanging may be a sign of an underlying medical issue. So, if your baby keeps hitting their head on their crib for extended periods or it continues for weeks on end, it warrants putting a call through to your pediatrician.

What you can do

If you are concerned about your baby’s behavior, always give your pediatrician a call. If the banging just started, take some time to look for a root issue. Is the banging in response to something? Does your baby have any new teeth emerging or show any other signs of illness? Are they seeking attention or response?

If the causes are more behavioral, take time during the day to help your toddler express themselves if they’re angry or frustrated.

What not to do

When your child bangs their head to go to sleep, your first inclination is likely to add padding to your little one’s crib. Please don’t—it’s dangerous to add additional blankets and padding, no matter how safely secured you think they are. Babies typically aren’t banging their heads hard enough to hurt themselves severely. Instead, add a “lovey” or another safe attachment object to your baby’s crib, so that they have something outside of themselves to self-soothe.

If you’re in the Philadelphia area and are wondering, “ is there a sleep consultant near me?” The answer is, “yes!” I’d be happy to work with you to create a comforting sleep routine for your little one. Please contact me to schedule a complimentary 15-minute phone call.

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