20 answers

Baby Stares into Space

My son is 8 wks old and since he was about 3 wks old, he stares off into space a lot. He smiles, laughs and is starting to coo and interact with me a good bit, but there are times when he stares past me (or whoever) at the ceiling. When he is doing this he does not respond to anything else. You can put something in his line of sight and move it around but he doesn't seem to see it. If I move him he just turns his head to continue to stare in the same direction. I know I've heard that symptoms resembling these are signs of autism in toddlers, but I don't know about infants. I hope I am overreacting, but I am a new mom. Is this normal? any help would be greatly appreciated.

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thanks to everyone for their advice. I spoke to his ped. about it and he agreed to help me keep an eye out for him. He seems to be growing out of it, though, and rarely does it anymore.

Featured Answers

I honestly belive that children really do see things that we can not. It doesn't matter what we were raised to believe in or try to deny. My son did the same thing from time to time. Now he is almost 4 and still does it but he can talk now and when I ask him who he is talking to or looking at he says it is ronnie, who is my husband's uncle, who has passed. The thing is he only saw ronnie we he was a baby and not old enough to remember who he is.

Both of my kids went through this stage and they are now perfectly normal at 9 & 6. I always just said they were looking at their angel. You never know, maybe they are. I have seen other babies do it too. I don't think you have anything to worry about.

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Hello S.,

Good for you to be asking the question! I don't want to scare you or alarm you unnecessarily, but my son did this also. He still does at times. He is 8 now and was diagnosed with autism at 2 1/2. I write you only to say, watch him carefully and watch his development closely, but lovingly.

Here are some things you should watch for if you are remotely concerned about autism, as well you should be, since the best predictor for recovery is early identification and early intervention. Autism effects 1 out of every 166 children. It is more prevalent in boys, ratio is 3:1.

Unfortunately, the doc's will probably tell you what they told me. "Don't stress mom! You are just a new mom/paranoid... etc" It wasn't until the magical age of 2 1/2 that they said the word autism... time was unnecessarily wasted because I had concerns and questions for over a year prior to his official diagnosis.

Here is some "Red Flags", think of this often while watching his development.

In clinical terms, there are a few “absolute indicators,” often referred to as “red flags,” that indicate that a child should be evaluated. For a parent, these are the “red flags” that your child should be screened to ensure that he/she is on the right developmental path. If your baby shows any of these signs, please ask your pediatrician or family practitioner for an immediate evaluation:

No big smiles or other warm, joyful expressions by six months or thereafter
No back-and-forth sharing of sounds, smiles, or other facial expressions by nine months or thereafter
No babbling by 12 months
No back-and-forth gestures, such as pointing, showing, reaching, or waving by 12 months
No words by 16 months
No two-word meaningful phrases (without imitating or repeating) by 24 months
Any loss of speech or babbling or social skills at any age
*This information has been provided by First Signs, Inc. ©2001-2005. Reprinted with permission. For more information about recognizing the early signs of developmental and behavioral disorders, please visit http://www.firstsigns.org or the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov/actearly.
www.AutismSpeaks.com has a wonderful website that gives you typical developmental milestones, red flags, etc. It's a great resource!

Also, make sure that he is healthy when receiving vaccines and that the vaccines are Thimerasol free, Thimerasol is a preservative in vaccines which is MERCURY and is toxic to neurodevelopment.

Good Luck,
C. Davenport
Mom to Autistic 8 yr. old and Autism/Disability Advocate

1 mom found this helpful

I would definitely get a referral to a pediatric neurologist. It may be that this is only a coping factor when he's experiencing over-stimulation, but if the problem is greater, the sooner the help comes, the better. Remember, you know your baby better than anyone else, and 99% of the time, the mother is aware of the problem first. Let us know how things go--we're here for you!

1 mom found this helpful

Sounds like he is having petite mal seizures. You should take him to your doctor. L

I think all babies do this to some extent. They're just not adjusted yet to the whole sight thing!
If you're worried about autism then I would look into getting immunizations without mercury in them, since that seems to be the leading cause of autism in children. Particularly the MMR shot, which is given a lot in the first year.
I wouldn't worry for now, though. As long as he is responding to you sometimes, I think he's perfectly normal!

Both of my kids went through this stage and they are now perfectly normal at 9 & 6. I always just said they were looking at their angel. You never know, maybe they are. I have seen other babies do it too. I don't think you have anything to worry about.

S., I am no docotr, but at this age I think this is normal matter a fact I have seen many infants do that. They get ther little eyes on something and it is as though they are studing it really hard and nothing will get there eyes off of it. I really don't think it is something to worry about.


I would not get upset at this time. As he is so new to being here in the world and is experiencing different things. He may just be getting use to being able to see and trying to focus. My daughter had a lamp that she loved to stare at the light and she also stared at the ceiling fan, even when it was off. So he is probably just fine and adjusting to this new place he is living in now.

I dont know about autism, but I do know that my 3 year old daughter did this for a long time, and she was finally diagnosed with seizures. Now granted she has many other health problems which are terminal, but they told me that they are focal seizures. At that age I dont know if this would be the case or not, but I would definitely mention it to the pediatrician, and also keep a calender with the date, number of times a day, and how long the baby does this before he begins interacting again. This is how my daughter was diagnosed because her EEG was totally normal.
hope this helps, but doesnt alarm you at the same time.

Hi S.!

I don't want to alarm you, but you really should get this checked out. Try to see a neurologist. This could be what you call an "absonse" seizure. (I'm not sure on the correct spelling.) The reason I know, is that I had Juvenile Myclonic Epilepsy, which developed into Grand Mal Seizures in my teenage years. I had many absonse seizures as well as myclonic seizure (slight jerking of the hands) It is completely controllable with meds, and many young kids grow out of it. But you really should get it checked out soon. Good luck!

Hi S.,

I have two 21 month olds. A little girl and a little boy. My daughter has done the same thing your son has done. I reacted the same way you did - I don't think it is anything to worry about as long as your son smiles, laughs, and engages with you. My daughter just "zones" sometimes and then comes out of it a little bit later when I try and get her to. I have had other people tell me their child did that too when I comment. I worried too, but she is very engaging and emotional with me. The lack of any emotion is where the autism comes in. It is so scary being a first time mother, eh? Oh my - I thought I could handle anything, and then I had babies! :)


I honestly belive that children really do see things that we can not. It doesn't matter what we were raised to believe in or try to deny. My son did the same thing from time to time. Now he is almost 4 and still does it but he can talk now and when I ask him who he is talking to or looking at he says it is ronnie, who is my husband's uncle, who has passed. The thing is he only saw ronnie we he was a baby and not old enough to remember who he is.

Honestly, I wouldn't worry about it. Haven't you ever stared off into space?? A baby is a human being just as you are so don't be surprised if a baby stares off into space...adults do it all the time.

When babies are that small, they can't see very clearly. Everything looks blurry to them, or that's what the book I have says. You have to get 8-14 inches away from them to know it's you or to see things clearly. And I think this has to do a lot with the fact that he knows how you "smell". It also says that babies like to look to either the right or left. Also, babies will not tend to follow an object until they are about 3 months old. Get the book "What to Expect the First Year". You can get it at Wal-mart and it is very helpful. I hope this helps. It is very scary being a new mom, but you can do it! Once you get the hang of it and how he acts and responds to different things, it will be much easier.

Well my daughter is just now 5 months and two weeks and just started weirdly staring acrossed the room and at the ceiling like she see's something then starts crying like shes scared and not a normal baby cry its one you would hear when you tell a toddler no like she has to catch her breath in between crying , i was watching a show on TV about a baby that followed things around with her eyes when she was a baby and as she got older she developed imaginary friends what they didn't know is that she got very aggressive and her "friends" would tell her to do bad things to her baby brother , well as the show went on the discovered she has schizophrenia, for me that is a very scary thought thinking my child could be seeing something that isn't there, i thought this might help i will see how long my daughter does it but if it keeps happening i will definitely ask the doctor about it.

The fact that he laughs and smiles and is beginning to coo should help ease your fear of autism. Your child is acting his age. When my daughter was younger she use to stare at the wall and then burst into laughter. Young children do odd things since the world is looking different to them everyday.

What is normal? Your son is only 8 wks old, give him time to adjust his eye sight. He is ok.

Hi S.:

It seems like you've gotten quite a few responses to your query. As a mother of a 16 y/o autistic young man, I would suggest you have it checked out. Even if you have the doctor tell you there is nothing wrong, and you're being paranoid, at least you've done the right thing and taken the first step to have your son checked out. I'm not saying that it's autism or a seizure disorder. It could be nothing...like others said...just tuning out because of overstimulation. But if it is autism or petit mal seizures, the earlier you know about this, the more you can do. There wasn't much known 14+ years ago when I was questioning my sons development and habits. Had I known what autism was back then...and the steps that could be taken to help my son deal with processing information back at that young age, he might have been much further along developmentally by now. (He's a fairly well-adjusted high school student who is in CDC class now.) My advice in a nutshell....better safe than sorry.

Hi S.,
I have a 3 month old daughter and she does the same thing, someone told me (an ole wife tale) that all babies can see angels, I don't knwo if this is true but when there staring at the ceiling and smiling they have to be seeing something. she has also started cooing when she does it. I told my husband she was seeing her grandmother ( his mom) she died a few months b4 hurricane katrina hit. we have a 17 will be 18 in april daughter and now the baby, I was told i coundn't have no more. so when his mom passed she never even thought she would be a grandmother again.until the baby gets older i wouldn't worry about it to much i kinda like thinking thats whats going on seeing angels.when she is staring at the ceiling like that u can move things in front of her and for a few she will not notice it but if we keep on she will sometimes she does it when i am feeding her and she will stop eating to smile and coo. I truely hope thats all it is but like i said wait till he gets a little older then if u still see signs of it then have him checked hope this helps. C.

I agree that you may want to mention this behavior to your pediatrician. That being said.....
Very often, infants are "overstimulated", and in an effort to self soothe, they may "tune out" the environment from time to time. I wonder if this is the case with your son. With many people smiling in his face, making noises, the outside world can be very overwhelming, since everything is new and exciting.
It is interesting that babies need down time too. We as mothers tend to want to entertain our little sweethearts all of the time, with new stimuli, things to hear, look at, etc.
This may be his way of saying, "I've had enough for right now".

Talk to your doctor. It could be something else or nothing at all. When I was about 4 years old, I had what they used to call petite mal seizures where I would just stare off into space. I didn't have convulsions or anything. My Mom said I would just stop talking in mid-sentence and later pick up where I left off. I took meds for a while but then grew out of it. I would definately talk to the doctor. You might even want to video your son when he has an episode to show the doctor. Good luck.

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