Baby Flailing Arms and Legs While Sleeping
Baby Toddler Safety

Baby Flailing Arms and Legs While Sleeping

New parents may worry when they observe their baby flailing arms and legs while sleeping.

When this behavior is observed, parents might wonder if their baby has a good dream or if their baby is in distress. 

After the cessation of these movements, it can be difficult to tell if a baby is experiencing some discomfort or just sleep-flailing.

Babies are used to being carried around, so sitting still for too long can be uncomfortable for them. 

When infants do not have their arms and legs free to move, blood tends to pool in their extremities — a condition that can make babies cranky when they are seated or lying down for prolonged periods resulting in babies having low tolerance levels. 

Baby Flailing Arms and Legs While Sleeping 

How do you deal with or how should you feel upon seeing your baby react this way even while asleep?

Rest assured that this is normal, and you have nothing to worry about. However, there are ways that you can help the baby experience less of the action.

Manually stimulating a baby’s limbs when feeding the child can assist in digestion.

This way, the child will retain more energy since they won’t use a lot in digesting food. 

Excessive flailing of the baby’s arms and legs is typical behavior in newborns.

The startling movements of the arms and legs can occur when your baby is drowsy or startled awake, which happens even to healthy infants. 

The movements also help promote the development of the muscles.

Despite many parents getting alarmed by seeing the action, they are not harmful and may occur when an infant is resting, feeding, or crying. 

Seeing your baby flailing arms and legs while sleeping is not something to panic about.

However, it is best to seek medical advice from a pediatrician if this behavior persists past the baby’s two weeks of age.

3 Reasons for Baby Flailing Arms and Legs While Sleeping   

Sometimes, infants move around a lot in their sleep. They may also suck their hands or fingers, have sudden changes in breathing, or cry out to signify they want something. 

Here are the other reasons why they may appear to be surprised even while sleeping:

1. Moro “startle” reflex

When your baby starts to sleep and observes something new, your baby will get awake and moving.

If you have ever observed your baby sleeping, you might have noticed that the baby will wake up and start moving around.

Some babies may even cry when they do this. This is called the Moro reflex, and it is not alarming.

To soothe your baby, swaddle their arms and legs. Some mothers have found swaddling to be a helpful sleep aid, while others find it ineffective.

If you decide to swaddle your baby, make sure that you don’t do it tightly.

This can lead to a problem like hip dysplasia, which causes pain and inflammation in the hip joint. 

The right way to swaddle your baby depends on their age and stage of development, so you should follow the instructions that come with any wrap you buy.

Making sure the blanket isn’t too tight is also important since an overactive child may turn in their sleep.

2. They may be feeling itchy

Just moments before falling asleep, a baby’s arms and legs may twitch due to eczema or wet nappies.

The babies’ itching skin makes them restless in bed, so they move around a lot to relieve that discomfort.

Mothers have reported that they found out their babies had the condition after seeing the flailing of their arms and legs during sleep.

3. Having trouble sleeping

Infants who skip their naps during the day can have trouble sleeping at night, so some parents find it best to allow their babies to sleep during the day and play at night.

If a baby has a fussy evening, some parents give the baby gas drops or make them burp before bedtime.

Also read: How To Keep Baby’s Legs From Getting Stuck In A Crib?


Some babies flail their arms and legs in their sleep. Though this behavior is completely normal, it can be upsetting to parents who are not used to it.

It is nothing to be alarmed about, but you can take specific steps to minimize it. 

One thing you should do is make sure your baby is getting enough sleep. That means establishing a bedtime routine and using it every night.

If your baby’s movements during sleep seem excessive, you could try wrapping them in a light blanket, which has been shown to soothe babies and help them sleep longer. 

Finally, discuss it with your pediatrician immediately if you see any changes in your baby’s breathing patterns or if you notice something out of the ordinary or an odd sound.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do babies flail their arms and legs during sleep?

In the first few months of life, babies often exhibit a short-lived reflex called the Moro or startle reflex.

A baby jolted by something, like a commotion or a loud noise, may show one of two possible reactions: both the baby’s arms jolt up and down fast or even in a jerky manner, or the infant will recoil and draw its head back into the shoulders.

Why does my baby flail so much in his sleep?

Babies sleep in several different patterns throughout the day, including active and quiet sleep.

In active sleep, babies twitch and flail their limbs. They may also grunt and sigh and open their eyes.

In quiet sleep, babies breathe slowly and rhythmically; they move only slightly and are difficult to wake up.

When do babies stop flailing in sleep?

Most babies are unable to feel the sensation of falling, so they startle less frequently.

When startled, however, babies of this age might extend their arms and curl their legs but not move their heads or bodies.

The persistence of this response is related to the baby’s ability to sense that they are falling. This reflex virtually disappears around the time a baby is six months old.



Iesha Mulla

Iesha is a loving mother of 2 beautiful children. She's an active parent who enjoys indoor and outdoor adventures with her family. Her mission is to share practical and realistic parenting advice to help the parenting community becoming stronger.

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