Healthy Living

Back Arching in Babies with Dr. Tuohy

Oct 3 2023

Anne Marie Tuohy, MD, our regional medical director of pediatrics from Bon Secours Pediatrics of Mechanicsville, discusses common questions from parents on why babies arch their backs.

What are some common reasons that babies arch their backs? 

“Most commonly, babies may arch their backs when they are crying or repositioning.

Many infants will arch their backs with feeds or right after feedings, indicating discomfort from reflux, which is a very common and normal phenomena in most infants, or some gassiness in their bellies. In fact, 98 percent of normal babies have some degree of regurgitation and may arch their backs as a result of this from time to time.

We are more concerned by this behavior if the child is spitting up and not gaining weight as a result, but this is far less common than the simple regurgitation of milk or saliva. Very rarely, babies with neurological immaturity or concerns may arch their backs as a part of increased muscle tone or other neurologic condition.”

Should parents do anything to prevent back-arching behavior in their babies? 

“Most importantly, parents should burp their babies frequently and NOT overfeed their infants.

Newborn infants take between a half to one ounce of milk in the first few weeks of life, increasing incrementally by one ounce per week to a maximum average of about four ounces by four weeks where they should stay for next five to six months of age. Keeping children upright and calm for 20 minutes after a feeding also can help reduce the amount of regurgitation and arching that parents may witness if they are jostled too quickly right after a feeding.

Trying not to place them directly into a car seat after a feed can also help to minimize regurgitation.”

When should parents call the doctor about their baby arching their back? 

“If a child is demonstrating signs of discomfort with arching including grimacing of the face or excessive crying afterwards, or if this is affecting their disposition, oral intake or associated with increasing vomiting, then an assessment is in order to discuss with your child’s pediatrician.”

Anything else to add on this topic? 

“Again, back arching and reflux can be very common symptoms in infants especially between 3 to 12 weeks of age. Typically, it can improve with time, positioning and supportive care, but always review your concerns with your provider at your child’s well visit. Keeping up with routine well visits will help and allow you to collaborate with your child’s health provider in continuing to monitor and assess for changes in growth, appropriate nutritional intake and other concerns that may need interventions as they grow and develop.”

Learn about the pediatric services we provide at Bon Secours.

Related Posts

Please review our Terms of Use before commenting.