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Head Jerking/Bobbing - 10 mo old
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Head Jerking/Bobbing - 10 mo old

My son is 10 months old, and about a week or two ago, I noticed he is doing a strange head bobbing. The way I describe it, it's like when you're driving your car and start to fall asleep at the wheel but catch yourself by jerking yourself back awake? It's like that - his head will suddenly jerk up and down, usually 2-4 times. I think it seems to happen more when he's tired, but I have yet to learn an exact pattern. It doesn't seem to both him at all, but it seems to be involuntary.

He seems to do it more when he's tired or when he's concentrating on something. I did take him to see the pediatrician the other day, and she didn't really make a diagnosis one way or the other. She did refer us to a neurologist, and he has an appt in January. In the mean time though, I'm just nervous. Just worrying about all the things it could be and hoping for a little reassurance that this isn't something TOO serious. I worry that it could be Tourrete's, or epilepsy, or worse yet, a brain tumor or something equally serious. I just get a pit in my stomach when I think of what it could be. I've heard a few people say their babies did the same thing at his age and later grew out of it, so I hope that is the case.

I feel I'm on the right path by taking him to the neurologist next month, but I guess in the mean time, could someone just help me answer these questions: Does this sound like something normal that he'll just grow out of? What  possible conditions/disorders could this be? (such as the ideas I listed above or other)

I read that a magnesium rich diet might help with tics, if that is indeed what this is. Would that be helpful at his young age? If so, what foods are rich in magnesium that I can get him? I think nuts is one, but that's on the "no-no" list until he's a year old, so what other foods could help? I appreciate any ideas or words of wisdom (and comfort!) anyone could please offer, as I'm quite the worried mommy here!!
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Avatar_dr_f_tn
Thanks for using the forum. I am happy to address your questions, and my answer will be based on the information you provided here. Please make sure you recognize that this forum is for educational purposes only, and it does not substitute for a formal office visit with your doctor.

Without the ability to examine your son and obtain a history I can not comment on the cause of his head bobbing, however I will try to provide you with some useful information.

Head bobbing in this age group can have many explanations. It may simply be behavioral or related to some normal movements that occur in infants as they fall asleep or are asleep (such as benign sleep myoclonus, hypnic jerks, stereotypies, or esophageal reflux). Tourette's and tic disorders do not usually start so early, and I recommend against modifying his diet in any way at this point. You are correct in stating that possible causes include tumors and epilepsy, and other serious neurologic disorders such as ventricular tumors and cysts, hydrocephalus, etc but there are several other less worrisome causes. For example, spasmus nutans is a benign disorder that usually occurs in infants between 4 months and 3 years of age and is characterized by nystagmus (rapid eye movements that have specific characteristics), head nodding, and abnormal head postures. It usually goes away by itself in several months to years. The cause is unknown, although it may be associated with other medical conditions.

I agree that he needs to be seen by a pediatric neurologist for further evaluation. Keep in mind that while there are potentially serious causes to head bobbing in infants, there are MANY benign causes that have no further implications on your child's health, such as those stated above and others.

Thank you for this opportunity to answer your questions, I hope you find the information I have provided useful, good luck.
9 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
Hello Dr.,
Thank you for your response. It is reassuring to see what possible things this could be. Over the weekend, my son barely did the head-bobbing at all. While in previous days, I had noticed him do it several times per day, over the entire weekend, I only saw him do it maybe 2-3 times. His neurology appt is scheduled for January 12th, but if he stops doing the head bob between now and then, do you think I should still take him in? I'll still take him if it helps, but if this is just a normal phase that he is perhaps already outgrowing, maybe there's no reason to take him in?
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Avatar_n_tn

Hello Dr.,
Thank you for your response. It is reassuring to see what possible things this could be. Over the weekend, my son barely did the head-bobbing at all. While in previous days, I had noticed him do it several times per day, over the entire weekend, I only saw him do it maybe 2-3 times. His neurology appt is scheduled for January 12th, but if he stops doing the head bob between now and then, do you think I should still take him in? I'll still take him if it helps, but if this is just a normal phase that he is perhaps already outgrowing, maybe there's no reason to take him in?
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Avatar_dr_f_tn
Dear Riveemi, it is really hard for me to comment on whether or not to take your son to the neurologist, but I think you can ask your pediatrician, since she can examine your son she can more objectively make that assessment. One thing i suggest is video tape your son when he has those head movements so that if he doesn't do them in the pediatrician's office, she/he will at least know what the movements look like. The pediatrician will be able to tell if these are just a benign movement or something more serious, and will be able to tell you whether or not to keep your neurology appointment.
Good luck
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi, my son is 8 months old and doing the head bobbing!  He started at about 5-6 months did it for 3 or so weeks.  I brought him to the doctor and she said it was the spasmus nutans, although he never had any weird eye movement, only the head nodding(like he is nodding yes)!  It went away for about 1 1/2 months and now started again. I talked with my doctor at the begining of the week and she would like him to wait a few weeks before we take any more action, to see if it passes again.  He has met all of his milestones and otherwise seems fine, I have put a call into her though, stating I would like to be referred now, and not wait the few weeks!  If you don't mind me asking, what did you find out at your appointment?  Like you, I am very scared that something is going on!
Thanks!
Jill
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Avatar_n_tn
Hi there,

I am an anxious mom who just noticed that my 11 month old little baby is also jerking her head for the past two days. I am very scared and want to listen to your similar experiences. My doctors opinion that it could be a habit, but would like to examine the baby if it is consistently happening. Any advice would help. Please write.
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Avatar_n_tn
Hello,
An update on my son's situation - he stopped doing the head-bobbing about 2-3 weeks after if started. We had a neurologist appt scheduled, but cancelled it because he was no longer doing the head bobbing. Looking back, I think he may have been learning how to nod his head "yes". My husband had been working with him to nod "yes" and shake his head "no". Now he does both, but it's a very controlled, voluntary movement - definitley nothing I am worried about. I think maybe at the time, he was learning this movement, but just didn't have a very good handle on it? Anyway, in your case, I guess my best advice would be just to watch it. I'd probably take her in to your doctor, and if possible, try to get it on video with your cell phone or something - this helps since she probably won't do it at the dr's office. If the dr feels necessary, she'll refer you to a neurologist, but unfortunatley, there's usually quite a wait to get in with them, and even then, supposedly they'll just look your child over and say, "Well, we did a full physical examination and find no reasonable explanation for the bobbing, so just continue to watch it and bring her back in if anything changes." Annoying, I know. But to reassure you, back when my son was doing this, I was a google-maniac, and found lots of instances where other children seemed to be doing the same thing. I had NEVER heard of it before it happened with us, but once I started looking for it, I found a lot of people who'd been through the same thing and their children just naturally grew out of it. Is she doing anything other than the head bobbing? If she's doing an eye spasms or limb-jerking while it happens, I think there's more concern, but if it's just the head-bobbing, I really do think it's just some natural she'll grow out of. Of course, every child is different, and you have to go with your gut instinct - I wish you the best! Let me know how everything goes!
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Avatar_m_tn
hi doc,
i have 2 months old son,ive notice since we just come out in the hospital that he had involuntarily muscle movement in the arms,legs and body,but the eyes not rolling down and up,the pedietrician said it is not epelipsy,but a tremor i really woried about my son,wondering how bad is the condition of tremor, is it gonna go away? i really need ur help.
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