You've read all the books, and were totally prepared for the poo and the vomit and the crying and eventually the demanding toddler behaviour. But every now and then you notice your child doing something that seems a little ... odd. And you have to wonder: do other kids do that too? Is my child normal?
Probably. Put plainly, your child is more likely to be normal than not – and by ‘normal’, I mean displaying behaviours and characteristics that are actually common and not a cause for concern.
Here are 10 weird, confusing and yet totally normal things you might notice in your child.
1. His head is flat at the back
This is most likely due to spending so much time on his back, especially if you’re following SIDS recommendations to sleep your baby on his back at all times. The flat head, or positional plagiocephaly, will usually correct itself as your child grows older and spends less time laying on the same spot. To help avoid and/or help correct the flatness, position your baby’s head facing in different directions when he lays on his back. Also encourage tummy time, too.
2. She bites you on the shoulder when being carried and held
This can be due to teething – have you noticed her chewing or gnawing on other things too? But it could also just be experimentation with cause and effect. This shows that your baby is learning more about the way the world works, and is testing what your response to a nip on the shoulder will be. To avoid getting chunks taken out of you, respond by putting her down without comment. Test completed! Soon, with enough repetition, she’ll decide the outcome really isn’t worth the biting.
3. He sleeps with his eyes open
Your child is a zombie! But don’t worry, plenty of others are as well. The official term for ‘baby zombie’ (or someone who sleeps with their eyes open, at least) is nocturnal logophthalmos; it’s reasonably common in infants, and most will grow out of it by about 18 months. There isn’t a lot known about how the condition arises, but it’s thought it might have something to do with the large amount of time babies spend in REM sleep.
4. She fakes coughing
Clever little thing – she’s only nine months old and is figuring out how to get your attention! This is, again, an exploration of cause and effect. After seeing that her own (or others’) real coughs get a reaction, and maybe special attention, she’s seeing what kind of reaction she can get. If you mimic the sound back she might enjoy the ‘conversation’ between the two of you, and continue to cough to engage with you.
5. He eats dirt
… And also insects and twigs and pebbles and anything else he can get into his mouth. This is just a normal part of his exploration of the world around him. While you should be careful to ensure he doesn’t put anything in his mouth he could choke on, a small amount of dirt won’t pose any serious health risks, and is very unlikely to become a long term habit once he has filed the information away under ‘gritty’ and ‘actually pretty yucky’.
6. She said ‘Dad’ before ‘Mum’
This has absolutely no bearing on your child’s feeling towards either parent, or anyone at all. In fact, it’s unlikely that “Dadadadadada” is even connected to her father in her mind yet. This sound is simply one of the easiest to say and is very often the first, or one of the first, ‘words’ a baby will learn to say.
7. He bangs his head on the wall or floor
Head banging is more likely to be a form of self-soothing (like rocking) than a sign of physical or emotional discomfort. He may also like the rhythmic sound and be experimenting with the sensation. Don’t be tempted to put cot bumpers or cushions in the crib if this is where the head banging happens the most – these are far more likely to hurt your child than the head banging.
8. She hits other children
While aggression shouldn’t be encouraged, it’s certainly a very normal part of childhood development. Hitting others can stem from frustration with developing communication and emotional skills, curiosity, and pure fun. Discourage it but don’t be concerned about it – it’s (hopefully!) just a stage.
9. He walks on his tippy toes
Though the exact cause of toe-walking is still unknown, it’s not uncommon in kids under two – they’ll often do it when ‘cruising’ and learning to walk, and some kids just like to keep doing it for fun once they’re seasoned walkers. Most children grow out of it by the time they’re five years old. Of course, if you’re worried – or if your walks on her toes most of the time, seems generally uncoordinated, or can’t bear weight on a flat foot – talk to your doctor to rule out any issues.
10. She plays with her genitals
Again, this is once again a normal sign of exploration and development – in fact, even unborn babies in the womb have been shown to play with their genitals! Your baby probably plays with her hands and feet as well, as she’s just touching everything she can reach. She’s still finding out about her body, trying to work out what parts belong to her and what’s separate from you and the rest of the world.
Brigid is a career nanny with over 15 years of experience with children of all ages, as well as an education degree. Read her blog at nannysavvy.com.