What Does It Mean If Baby Arches Their Back While Crying?

What Does It Mean If Baby Arches Their Back While Crying?

So, you’ve given birth to a little babe — congrats, mama! 👶

By now, we imagine you’re well accustomed to the many cries your newborn has to offer.

There’s the looouuud cry.

The soft, whimper-like cry.

The “I need food right NOW” cry.

The “my diaper needs your imminent attention” cry. 🙃

And so many more!

But, maybe you’ve noticed that baby tends to arch their back while they’re crying?

Whether it’s all the time, or only reserved for certain cries, we’re here to help you figure out what it means, and if it’s normal.

In this article: 📝

  • Why do babies arch their back?
  • Why is my baby arching their back while crying?
  • Why is a baby arching their back sometimes a red flag?

Why do babies arch their back?

First off, let’s go through why a baby may arch their back in the first place.

If you’re looking down into the bassinet and you see your baby moving into all kinds of shapes and stretches, it’s all totally normal.

They’re working out what their bodies can do and, often, part of that will be arching their back - sticking their tummy forwards and sussing out how this whole ‘living outside the womb’ thing really feels.


They might be trying to turn over, looking around, or they might be uncomfortable so their back-arching is more of a way to wriggle into a more comfortable position.

Or, it might be for another reason, especially if it’s paired up with crying. 👇

Why is my baby arching their back while crying?

Not always, but sometimes, back arching when crying can mean they’re in some sort of pain or discomfort.

Some of the most common reasons why your little babe is showing off their acrobatic skills while crying are:

  • 💨 Wind, or reflux:

Reflux is when your baby spits up frequently.

This happens when food moves back up your baby’s esophagus, instead of going further through the digestive tract.

And some babies can gulp in air when they’re trying to feed too fast, which causes wind and discomfort.

If this reflux continues after a child is 1 year old, this is known as GERD (gastro-esophegal reflux disease).

Reflux, or gas, could make your baby more prone to arching their back, or writhing in discomfort, as it might help bring down the feelings of reflux.

  • 😭 Colic:

A very common condition in little babes, colic may well be the culprit behind baby’s arched back.

A colicky baby would likely display intense, frequent crying episodes, which are typically void of any distinguishable pattern.

But, good news, mama — despite them seeming upset a lot of the time, colic is generally nothing to worry about.

Baby can still be extremely healthy, and their arched back is simply a symptom of their colic, alongside stiffening arms, clenching fists, and bending knees.

  • 🦷 Teething

So, teething… that’s a wholeeee other ball game. 🫠

But, if your little one has tender, swollen gums, this could cause them to arch their back in discomfort.


🔍 Read More: How Long Does Teething Last? 🤔

  • 🥱 Tiredness/overstimulation

Of course, your little munchkin may just be really tired, and they’re officially clocking off for the day.

It may make them feel restless or some discomfort, so if their back-arching while crying happens at a naptime, or a time after they’ve been particularly overstimulated, it could well be time for a kip.

Set them down in a quiet, dimly-lit room for some much-needed zzz’s. 💤

  • 😲 Moro reflex:

When baby is startled and something makes them jump, they might throw up their arms and arch their back.

This startle reflex usually disappears after they’re about 2-months-old.

So, there you have it — some simple insights into why your baby is showing off their acrobat skills!

Why is a baby arching their back sometimes a red flag?

But, in some cases, when a baby arches their back, it could point to something more serious going on.

Before we jump in, it’s important to note that if you suspect your child may have any of these conditions, their first port of call would be to get checked over by their pediatrician.

They’ll be able to advise you on the best next steps for baby, and whether or not there’s anything more serious at play.

Cerebral palsy

If you’ve noticed your baby arching their back without a real clear reason, or if they’re doing it in their sleep, this could be a sign of cerebral palsy.

Cerebral palsy is a lifelong condition that affects your child’s ability to control and coordinate their muscles.

It could also mean your child might have delays reaching development milestones, and they could have intellectual disabilities, difficulty with vision or hearing, or experience seizures.

Cerebral palsy has been linked to be more common in premature babies, so if your little one arrived early into the world, this could have some links with them developing this condition.

Signs of cerebral palsy are often more obvious with age, but if you can identify the condition sooner rather than later, it could lead to treatment faster, and better outcomes later in life.


One of the most common characteristics that babies with autism display is arching their back.

This is specifically arching it away from their caregiver, to avoid any physical contact. 🙅‍♀️

A baby with autism would often be described as either passive, or overly agitated.

So, if your baby is either of these things, as well as if they’re arching their back, they could have some form of autism.

But, by 1-years-old, you’d typically expect your baby to be showing other signs of autism, too, if they were autistic.

These signs can include not using eye contact to communicate, not smiling spontaneously, rocking back and forth, or not gesturing (waving or pointing) on their own.

Autism is, again, more obvious with age, but the sooner it’s picked up, the quicker treatment plans can be put into place.

This can then ensure baby has the most support possible throughout their development milestones.

Remember, if you’re ever in doubt about why your baby is arching their back, or you’re worried about anything at all, your doctor can help.

But, you may feel like chatting to women who’ve been through it all before…

That’s where our Community steps in.

Find new friends and a whole new support network on Peanut. 🥜


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