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What to Expect: Body Movements in Babies

It's normal for babies to sometimes move in ways that seems stiff or unusual. As their brains and muscles develop, they start to move the way older kids and adults do.

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  • Take care of your baby as you usually do. You do not need to make any changes.

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  • You see changes in your baby's movements that worry you.

  • Your baby has twitching that lasts more than a few seconds.

  • The movements seem to upset your baby or make your baby very tired.

  • You think your baby is having a seizure.

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What are some typical movements that babies have? Most newborns stretch their arms and legs and go stiff when surprised or startled. This startle response is called the "Moro reflex." Also, newborns can sometimes be jittery. They may shiver or tremble, even if they're not cold.

It's also normal for some babies to twitch when they're tired, sleeping, or even awake. The twitching only lasts for a few seconds. And some babies nod or shake their heads a lot, especially when trying to focus on an object.

When do these unusual movements go away? As the connection between the muscles and brain matures during the first year of life, these movements slowly go away.

Is there a way to tell when a movement is a sign that something is wrong? It's not always easy to tell the difference between normal movements and movements that are a cause for concern. If any of your baby's movements last for longer than a few seconds or seem unusual, talk to your health care provider.

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