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12 month old head banging when frustrated/angry/picked up... Help!

(21 Posts)
TotalBummer Wed 07-Nov-12 21:42:40

DS2 has always had a temper. It is becoming more apparent as he is striving for more independence. He was desperate to walk and as soon as he started walking at 10 months I thought maybe he would be less frustrated. He is obviously now really annoyed that he isn't allowed to do things like wander free reign through the house and touch the oven/throw himself off the couch/walk down the stairs alone!

If anything remotely annoying happens he loses the plot and has a major tantrum which ALWAYS involves head banging. Hard. HV said to lift him and hold him gently, cuddling him and reassuring him until the tantrum subsides, distracting him as much as possible. He would grow out of it and stop headbanging when he realises it is painful.

Well, he obviously finds it painful as he will throw himself down, bang his head into whatever is nearby (usually the carpet but still at some force) and he always has a bruised forehead. I pick him up and he will headbutt me. If I pick him up facing outwards he will throw himself backwards to headbutt me.

Do they grow out of this??? If so at what age? Is there maybe something wrong with him? I have read about this online but don't know of anyone in RL who has this problem and people are always asking "Oh, has that bruise not cleared up?" and I tell them he banged it again so I am worried what they think...

Anyone else have this problem?

MrsCantSayAnything Wed 07-Nov-12 22:52:32

It's very common according to Baby Centre and can usually be seen to calm down by about 1 and a half to 2 years old.

Apparently boys are more likely to do's usually due to frustration as you've sussed grin

It must be awful to watch but it seems you've nothing to worry about. I copied the words below from Baby Centre online

Self-comfort. As strange as it may sound, most toddlers who indulge in this behavior do it to relax. They bang their head rhythmically as they're falling asleep, when they wake up in the middle of the night, or even while they're sleeping. Some rock on all fours as well. Developmental experts believe that the rhythmic motion, like rocking in a chair, may help your toddler soothe himself.

MrsCantSayAnything Wed 07-Nov-12 22:53:12

h wrong bit! Here...below

Frustration. If your toddler bangs his head during temper tantrums, he's probably trying to vent some strong emotions. He hasn't yet learned to express his feelings adequately through words, so he's using physical actions. And again, he may be comforting himself during this very stressful event.

ThisIsMummyPig Wed 07-Nov-12 22:56:36

My DD1 did that at a similar age. What I found worked best was putting her on a bean bag and leaving her to it. DH used to get in a tizzy over it until I pointed out (after I noticed) that she always went to the carpet first and never did it on the hard kitchen floor.

It is really stressful, but I personally think the best thing for all tantruming behaviours is to ignore them. She gave up in a few weeks, but it was horrible at the time.

midastouch Wed 07-Nov-12 23:00:52

not much help but a bitof reassurance... my ds used to do this maybe its just a phase? he did stop i cant actually remember when but it did.

NellyJob Wed 07-Nov-12 23:04:51

both of mine got into banging their heads on the carpet for a while but stopped when we stayed for a couple of nights in a house with tile floors.......

achillea Wed 07-Nov-12 23:09:18

Whatever his feelings are, he needs to be able to express them and it is your job to help him learn to do this. Play, play and play again. Listen to his needs, empathise. He doesn't WANT to touch the oven because it is hot. He tried to touch it because he is smart and curious, you prevented him from doing that, as anyone would. You say he was annoyed, can you think of a way to stop him reaching for the hot oven without him getting upset?

I would strongly disagree that headbanging at 10 months is normal and just a phase. You really need to find out the cause if this and see a play specialist or a pediatrician.

LDNmummy Wed 07-Nov-12 23:11:01

My DD does this and I assumed it was what has been described in Anything's post. She comes from a family with sharp tempers on both sides and though I was a calm child, my DH wasn't so I always feel it is something she has inherited too.

She is 13 months and does this not only when throwing tantrums but when falling asleep and even during her sleep when she is not in a deep sleep. When she does this I always feel sad for her as she must be so frustrated she cannot express herself properly.

When she thrashes like this during a tantrum, I just hold her up and as close to me as possible as I would rather she did it against me than the hard floor or knocked into something. She does headbutt me too (four times today!) and gets bruises on her forehead which I hate looking at sad

Glad you started this thread OP and hope our LO's grow out of it soon.

achillea Thu 08-Nov-12 09:13:32

If anyone's child does this you should err on the side of caution and make sure they get medical help. This is not normal behaviour, it has to be dealt with as your baby is at risk of a head injury.

Headbanging is often used as a way to alleviate pain, and should be checked out by a medical professional. It's not about temperament.

LDNmummy Thu 08-Nov-12 13:02:21

achillea with my DD for instance, it is not so much that she is banging her head on purpose, but rather she is throwing tantrums.

When she thrashes around during a tantrum, she swings her head backwards with force if I am holding her or she wants to throw her body in my direction. So sometimes, if no one is holding her or you put her down, she throws her body forwards at the ground and flails in anger or frustration. Its more her throwing her body around than purposefully hitting her head. The problem is that during this type of tantrum, she always knocks her head in the process. So its more a tantrum that leads to her banging her head, and she has these tantrums daily so she is banging her head daily.

When she is falling asleep or not in a deep sleep, she does this it seems to wake herself up/ fight sleep. She has always fought sleep and it is obviously that, as she does it when she starts closing her eyes and drifting off.

It sounds to me like the OP is having the same issue, and from what I know of temperamental baby's this seems normal enough.

I am taking DD to the GP soon for something else so will inquire about it to be on the safe side.

She is always shocked from the pain after and cries and wants comforting so it doesn't seem to me like a sign of her trying to alleviate some other pain.

Just wondering if what I have described is what you are experiencing OP, I assumed that your son was doing the same thing as my DD but obviously I may have assumed incorrectly blush

I also have this problem with my DD when it comes to situations where she wants to assert her independence. For instance, if I try and feed her food to her instead of letting her use the spoon, she will throw the whole bowl on the floor and then throw one of these tantrums. It is always connected to me stopping her from doing something independently like roaming around freely when we go out. When I can, I just let her get on with it now.

hazeyjane Thu 08-Nov-12 13:20:20

achillea, when you say that it is not about temperament, so you mean that you believe it can only be because of pain? I don't really understand, because ds does this, and it is being investigated by a paed and he is being referred to learning disability nurses but that is only because he has sn.

When discussing it with the paed he said that a lot of nt babies and toddlers do headbang and it can be either a sort of 'self soothing' thing - done repetitively but fairly gently, say against the bars of the cot, or it can be out of frustration and a way of gaining attention.

I would say that if the op has no other concerns about her ds, maybe she could mention it to her hv for some strategies in how to deal with it.

achillea Fri 09-Nov-12 14:07:41

Babies don't have tantrums. They are not in control of their emotions in a way that an older child is and the only option is to find out what is wrong. They are telling you that there is a problem and you need to find out what it is. It may be ear pain, teething, it may be some other undiagnosed pain, it may be frustration at wanting to use their body more (physical frustration), it may be hunger, cold, fully nappy, stress, wanting a cuddle, any number of things - but there will be a reason and you need to find out what that is.

Sorry to be so blunt but it is dangerous for babies to be banging their heads and you should seek support to find the cause of the banging, as well as protecting them in the meantime.

Bibs123 Fri 09-Nov-12 18:45:48

Are you a professional Achillea? Maybe it is not a tantrum but it could certainly be frustration. It is very common and perfectly normal, all you can do is ignore it but make sure they don't hurt themselves. The OP made it clear that baby was banging it's head as a result of not being allowed to do things/being frustrated by this.

Tertius Fri 09-Nov-12 20:34:59

My daughter has been doing this since she was about 8 months and she certainly has a short fuse now at 15 months. Lots of tantrums and screaming. I think they will just learn to cope with their feelings over time.

My first was NOTHING like this! So I do sympathise.

Tertius Fri 09-Nov-12 20:56:12

And she too is a sleep fighter.

I'm really not worried about the head banging. My sister did it as a small child too.

BobbieSox Sat 10-Nov-12 20:14:49

My 13 month old boy does this. Definitely not pain. Seems totally to be a drama queen style reaction to me doing something he doesn't want ( mainly putting him down if I've been carrying him - he's not yet walking.)

I can already tell he's a stubborn/temperamental soul, head banging seems just to be a symptom of this. Having been doing it for a month or so he's already figured out it hurts and is doing it a bit more gently, just for effect!

achillea Tue 13-Nov-12 15:30:55

Head-banging is a self-soothing technique and it is one of many 'self-injurious behaviours' that babies use to calm themselves down about whatever it is they need to calm down about.

If we agree on that then we can agree that there is something that is a problem to them, making them need to be soothed. In all of these cases there is a cause, and the cause needs to be dealt with before we wade in to try and deal with the symptom first.

In some babies it is a response to pain, in others it is a response to loss of attachment, in others it can be seen as a 'control' behaviour. It can also be a way to reduce their perception of stimulation, so in a hyper-sensitive child.

In Bobbiesox's case it is seen by her as a control behaviour but it wouldn't be right to say that her baby's a control freak and is trying to boss her about - babies simply don't think like that. If you're making her do something she doesn't want, you must try to help her want to do the thing, rather than make her do it.

So if it's a case of going to sleep - you can't force it, you have to make her want to sleep - ensure that she's relaxed and tired, there's nothing distracting, ensure that she feels confident that you're not going to disappear forever (frequently the underlying fear behind non-sleepers) - it has to be a pleasant experience. In many ways it's just one step on from being rocked to sleep - baby isn't traumatised by some horrendous experience, it's just the way s/he deals with it.

Headbanging can cause tissue damage, it's not something to be taken lightly. Yes it is very common, but it isn't something that I would just put up with because there are risks involved and one day you and your baby are going to have to work through the problem anyway. I am not saying it is the parent's fault here, but your babies need their parents to help them through this.

BobbieSox Tue 13-Nov-12 19:04:40

Achillea I dont see it as controlling behaviour - I can't hold him all the time, I put him down, he bangs his head...then gets on with playing. Or I try to help him - recently tried to get some sand off an icecream, he overreacted by chucking it on the ground then banging his head...I gave the even more sandy icecream back, he ate it (yuck).

Not sure there's alot I can do about it - I already let him get on with things like eating sandy icecream as I know he'll fuss if I try and help...but can't carry him endlessly, especially with an older child to look after too.

Actually I have just reread your response and I do think he is trying to take control , rather than 'being controlling.' Why do you think babies don't think like that? I think they do want control, hence the frustration.

Bibs123 Tue 13-Nov-12 20:11:40

Achillia, I don't know where you have copied and pasted from but you are talking about a different behaviour, I for one do not agree.
The behaviour referred to in the OP, is because the baby is frustrated because he can't do what he wants/have what he wants, he is reacting by banging his head probably out of frustration and to get attention. You are referring to something very different so you are talking out of context.

RawShark Wed 14-Nov-12 02:33:20

Can you get him not to do things by distraction or think of ways to say no withouth saying no? After realising that just hearing the word no made DS upset I used to stare glassily over my DSs shoulder and say "what's that" in an excited voice and then we'd go to the window and look out. Most things are exciting at 12 months. E.g. with the oven I'd say "we don;t touch the oven because it's hot, let's look in the cupboadr etc etc etc. My DS is reasonably biddable though so may not help

You coudl also try using the same phrase everytime you're helping and will give item back once it's sorted - so he knows you're not taking it away (after a while my DS could understand that "mummy help" meant good things on the whole)

achillea Fri 16-Nov-12 11:06:39

Bobbiesox, babies don't think 'I don't want to do something so I'm going to bang my head so I don't have to', they think 'I expected this to happen and now something else is happening and someone's making it all worse - help!'. Then, over time they realise that when they bang their head it makes everything change somehow - makes them feel better and makes them forget the problem in the first place. Then hey presto, you have a habitual behaviour.

But it's still about finding the root cause if possible - I wonder if your situation could be normal sibling rivalry? The way I got over that was to get the older one to pay attention to the younger one, that way it becomes less of a competition for your attention. Even now when they fight for my attention I try not to focus on one child, always both or I ignore both. They still do it in their teens!

So the key is in making them forget the problem in a way that means they don't find banging their head a the only solution, as Rawshark suggests, distraction is a good one. Try to anticipate conflict (you probably do already) and think of a way to alter the approach you take, or the way he perceives it - so turn it into a moment of fun and humour to get him to focus on something else. It's not really about avoiding conflict, that's just a normal part of life, it's about avoiding the headbanging.

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