This Is Why Your Baby Is Arching Backwards

by Kelly Mullen-McWilliams

From the moment they're born, your baby is desperately trying to communicate her wants and needs to you. Crying sends a dramatic message, as all parents know, but it's important to note your baby's subtler cues, too. If you're wondering, "why is my baby throwing themselves backwards?" it's time to open the book of baby body language.

Babies are like actors in silent films (until, well, they're not), or a traveler in a foreign land. They use exaggerated facial expressions and movement to express what's on their mind — and sometimes, their bellies. According to Parents, arching in newborns, especially when combined with crying, could be a sign of stomach discomfort or reflux. If your baby is older, however, they may be expressing a different kind of discomfort when they throw themselves suddenly back. ABC Parenting noted that a baby arching backwards in your arms means, "No, thank you." She might not like the game you're playing or the face you're making. She may be bored, or want to switch positions. If your baby throws themselves backwards, respond with a change.

Remember also that sometimes babies don't want to engage — they just need to cool off. Have you ever been happily playing with your baby, only for her to suddenly become still, and turn her head away? According to Psychology Today, babies turn their heads away when they're overstimulated. When that happens, be sensitive, and don't try to recapture her attention. Sometimes, your baby just has her own plans.

Sadly, there's no actual manual that will help you decode your baby's signals. According to Graham Music's Nurturing Natures, communication styles differ from culture to culture, and from baby to baby, too. Together, you and your baby form a dyad, a small harmonious world unto yourselves. Through repeated sensitive interactions, you create your own rhythmic language. You won't always read your baby's signals correctly — and that's OK. Becoming attuned to your baby takes some trial and error, and no parent gets it right all the time, according to a series on attunement from Michigan State University Extension. (If you want to learn more about how to be a responsive parent, their series of articles is a great resource.)

Your best bet for learning your baby's signals, from back arching to ear pulling, is to give her your undivided attention when you can. Be fully present, and match your baby's facial expressions and vocalizations to get on the same "wave length." In moments like these, when you're most open and engaged, your baby will show you how she likes to interact, and give you a glimpse into her world.