Head shaking...involuntary??

Updated on October 27, 2009
A.R. asks from Fort Leonard Wood, MO
6 answers

My one year has begun shaking her head. At first it only happened before she was about to fall asleep. Its like she shakes her head no once or twice. I dont know if it is voluntary or involuntary. After that started she learned that when we say no to shake her head no. Now Im really having a hard time deciding if she is meaning to do it or not. Also, now she does it during the day sometimes when shes playing, she will look at me and shake her head once or twice. And sometimes when shes mad like when I change her diaper or clothes her head will shake "no". Should I be concerned. It will take about a month before the doctor can see her so I was wanting some other advice before we go to the doctor.

She started the head shaking before she learned what "no" was. And the only time she tries to say no and shakes her head is when she is repeating me.....

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So What Happened?

Thank you to everyone! You have made me much more comfortable. After hearing everyones answers and watching her more closely I do believe she is just doing it to tell me no! Its mostly happening now with diaper changes (which she does not like). Thank you all again!

More Answers



answers from St. Louis on

I am glad you are having it checked out, but it's probably nothing. My son was about 2 when he started watching TV out of the corner of his eye. He would turn his head completely to one side and look at the TV from one corner only. Sometimes he would switch to the other side. It was always absent-mindedly - I would ask him why he was doing it and he would not be able to say why. He wasnt aware he was doing anything different. I was positive he had some problem with his vision or balance or something - it was truly odd to watch and I was a bit freaked out. In the end (after fun neurological and vision tests), the dr said it was a "tick". Basically he was just exploring - things looked a little different when you look at the TV like that, and it was interesting to him. He told me he would grow out of it - and he did (within a year).

My advice, though, is more on a different angle... You know how when you have a pain that bothers you enough to go to the dr but it doesnt hurt when you get there? So you cant describe exactly where it hurts or how it feels? Really annoying!!! I knew my son only did this while watching tv, and it wasnt 100% of the time... so I was worried about how to describe it. I didnt want my inability to translate it to the doctor to prevent him finding out something wrong. So I video'd him while he was doing it - including me asking him questions about it at that time (why are you turning your head? Can you see the tv? do you need to move closer? does it hurt?) and took that with me and let the doctor watch it. That was probably the best idea I have ever had! Even the doctor was thrilled - it gave him the comfort of knowing that his judgment was based on seeing it for himself, not on a secondhand account of a hysterical mom :)

It sounds like that might be a good for you as well - during the next month, take some video of her doing it. Take it several times (edit it so the doctor only has to watch the important parts) - you never know, you might notice a pattern yourself when you watch it objectively - such as its always when the lights are very bright, or only when you are cooking (smells, etc). And it will show the doctor exactly what your concern is. Talk to her during the videos so he can gage if she is interacting (i.e. if is some type of seizure, it would be important to note if she is responsive to your voice, etc).

I wouldnt be too worried, kids do some really odd "ticks" (I read up after that happened, and we definitely got one of the "minor" ones :). Spending the next month on a mission to document it thoroughly (time of day, circumstances, surrounding, most recent meal/nap, etc) will help you and your doctor if there is a trend, and keep you preoccupied during the next month so you dont worry as much. And if it turns out to be nothing, you will have the peace of mind of knowing your doctor was fully informed of everything he needed to know in order to make that decision.

Good luck to you! Let us know what happens!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

you don't mention if she is talking or saying "no" at all, but if she's a year she's probably trying hard to communicate, and if she's not talking then probably even more so. my son would shake his head "no", sometimes when he meant yes, right at first. of course, you won't know for sure until the dr. sees her, but keep in mind this is a new skill she's practicing and they tend to repeat things like this over and over when they first pick them up. i'm sure she's fine!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Our daughter started shivering about 12-13 mons and I was worried. Of course a head shake comes along with that. She thought the shiver was funny so she would repeat it for laughs. It eventually stopped. Now, she shakes her head "no" violently and rolls her eyes up--again, for effect.

I think they just learn these little moves and do it over and over for fun or to get attention.

At least the one where my daughter fake wheezed didn't last more than a couple of weeks. I was just sure she had some nasty lung infection or asthma! ;)



answers from Kansas City on

A., It sounds to me like she's trying to comunicate. Try teaching her to nod for yes and see what happens.

"Why are you shaking your head No, we have to change your wet yicky diaper, Yes let's change your diaper.




answers from Wichita on

Good Morning A., This is pretty normal. She learned that when you say No, you shake your head in the no gesture. Your little princess is one she will do yes later...lol Zane is 2 and he still shakes his head no when he says it also.
Side to side is alot easier then the up and down movements.
I don't think you have a thing to worry about.
God Bless you and your little Princess
K. Nana of 5



answers from St. Louis on

Completely normal!

All babies do this between 10-12 months old. All of my children did, and every child I ever babysat that age did. It's just that they finally discovered something new they can do so they do it every now and then for fun... same as when they learned to grab toys or put things in their mouth, or wave, or clap.

She learned how to shake her head, so she does it just because she can. Perfectly normal no need to worry!

***I just wanted to add that the 10-month old I watch and my own 10-month old will shake heads at each other like that. I mean one will do the shake so the other will copy and they think it's funny! :) When your little girl shakes her head like that you can make it a game... shake yours back at her and laugh and she will think it's funny. :)

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