Why Do Babies Flap Their Arms

Why Do Babies Flap Their Arms

Ever wondered why do babies flap their arms?

When your baby becomes more physically expressive, you may see them moving their arms around a lot. This happens majorly when they grow to 2 months.

Babies don’t learn emotions inside their mother’s womb. They only know how to laugh and cry when they are born.

But as they experience more things, see people around them, and learn new ways of communication. And one among them is hand flapping.

But are you worried about your child’s hand flapping? Read this article to know everything about why do babies flap their arms.

Why Do Babies Flap Their Arms?

Hand flapping is a type of “stimming” that children use to relax, self-soothe, or regulate their bodies.

It can be shared among children when they are excited, anxious, nervous, or experiencing any other form of high emotion state.

These are normal, as a newborn is always emotionally very active. However, this can also be a habit.

Hand flapping has become one of the more widely recognized symptoms of autism.

Thus, it becomes essential as a parent to acknowledge all the positive sides and the opposing sides of hand flapping.

Let us look into some possible reasons behind hand flapping.

#1 Excitement

Excitement is the most common emotion a baby may experience. Imagine if you surprisingly get something without even asking for it.

Isn’t it something very fascinating? Babies get excited quite frequently. And thus, they show off their excitement through hand flapping.

Essentially, this means that our sensory systems’ scream canisters are overflowing, and the enthusiasm must be released in any manner imaginable.

#2 Anxiety

When you are anxious, don’t you flap your toes and fingers? Or, for instance, bite your nails.

The same mechanism works with babies as well. They don’t get even the simplest thing and can get nervous. This can lead to hand flapping and crying.

#3 Habit

Kids are more likely to catch any habit they find interesting. Small babies can do very few activities, and among them, they enjoy doing a few.

Arm flapping can be one of them. You can easily inculcate this habit by distracting them with a toy or a new game.

Professionals suggest that they are getting attracted to every new activity they observe. So, be creative and play with them.

Attract them towards a toy and end this bad habit.

See more in a related post: Why Do Babies Scratch Their Faces?

When To Start Worrying?

Arm flapping can essentially mean a sensory processing disorder as well as autism.

So you must watch your child’s activity closely and take them to a pediatrician for further checkups. 

If you observe the following few symptoms in your baby, hurry up and go to a doctor.

#1 Sensory Processing Disorder

It is common for children with sensory issues to stimulate.

You must know that self-soothing is all about regulating the sensory system inside your baby’s body and managing sensory input.

Sometimes it happens that babies have to work extra hard to retain sensory input.

Because our sensory systems receive sensory input differently and require different ways of dealing with it, some children flap their hands. However, some don’t.

So if you see your child flapping arms, don’t compare it with other babies. It can be because his body is more sensitive than others in terms of sensory input.

#2 Indication of Autism

An important point to note here is that babies with autism can get involved in arm flapping.

Still, not all babies who are flapping arms need autism—obverse your baby’s behavior when they are flapping their arms and what emotions they are experiencing.

Then, after thorough observation, you may contact your baby’s pediatrician.

#3 Self Harming

When you see that through flapping, your baby is harming himself, immediately go to his pediatrician. He would need immediate help.

Flapping is a regular activity that any normal childhood experiences. However, when it becomes harmful, you must take strict actions.


Stimming and hand flapping are rarely dangerous from a physical sense.

However, stimming is a broad term that can refer to various behaviors, some of which may be dangerous.

Generally, if they are doing it out of joy, you should also get involved in it to excite them.

However, if they are harming themselves or are being habituated, then don’t take it lightly.

Now that you are familiar with why do babies flap their arms, observe your kids and do all the needful.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Age Is Arm Flapping A Concern?

If your child is almost 3-4 years old but is still engaged with hand flapping, then it can be a matter of concern.

What Is Stimming Hand Flapping?

Stimming hand flapping involves various hand movements like rocking, flapping hands, jumping, bouncing, twirling, pacing, or walking on tiptoes.

What Are Signs Of Autism In Babies?

Signs of autism in babies may include fewer responses to parents, no eye contact, no pointing of objects, etc.

Related Post: How to Get Boogers out of Newborn Nose?

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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