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Mom’s Question:

I am worried because my toddler hits the side of his head with his hand.

What happens is that my baby, who is 14 months old, soon to be 15 months, continually slaps himself on the side of his head. What could this be? Could he be sick? What should I do about it?


Baby Helpline:

Reasons Why a Toddler Hits the Side of His Head

When a toddler continually slaps his head, it can be for a number of reasons:

Pain on the side of the head or throat

When a baby or toddler slaps his head on one side continuously, it might pay to get this checked out with your doctor. You didn’t say if it was just one side, but I wonder if he has an ear infection, a sore throat, or problems with a tooth coming in.

Some babies don’t cry unless pain is severe, but they are still annoyed by it and his hitting maybe trying to get the annoying feeling away or dull the pain he is feeling.

My sister’s oldest son had many ear infections as a baby, and never cried or seemed ill, but would rub his eyes. It took Mom and Dad several burst eardrums before they started to recognize the eye rubbing as a sign of an ear infection.

Babies can’t verbalize pain, or sometimes even locate it. So any repetitive unusual things like rubbing or hitting may well be showing you he is in pain.


There may be other reasons for a baby hitting his head too, such as anger or self-soothing. You can read more about babies that hit themselves, why, and at what ages in this thread.

Trying it out

If you are sure your baby is not in any pain from infection or teething, and he has developed good social skills, such as eye contact and babbling, this is likely just a behavior he is trying out. He will soon get bored with it if you do not artificially reinforce his head-slapping by paying attention to it.

However, if you have doubts about your baby’s social skills being in line with his age, be sure to discuss this with your pediatrician. Repetitive, unexplained behaviors in addition to social skills falling behind, can be a sign of autism spectrum in babies and toddlers and should be evaluated as soon as possible.

So to conclude, I’d suggest you rule out any illnesses as soon as possible. If you come to the conclusion that this is just a behavior he is trying out, try a combination of ignoring it and distracting him.

If you see that he is about to get started with the slapping, draw his attention to something else – like playing with you, a toy he loves, music or something else. Don’t try to actively stop him or react strongly. This will only reinforce the behavior.

I hope it sorts itself out soon.

Enjoy your little boy,

(Answer approved by our Medical Reference Team)

More Babies That Hit Themselves

Find comments below.


Apr 26, 2017hello
by: Anonymous

Don’t know if anyone has noticed but is there a trend here as all the comments are regarding little boys.?? could be something to think about. I know 2 baby boys who also do this. Could just be normal

Apr 28, 2017Ouch!

by: Anonymous

Well, for the comment that it’s all little boys, my little girl, 14 months has been doing it for months now. It drives me crazy. She’ll try to bang her head into me when I’m holding her, she’ll bang it on the floor, the wall, with her hands…I have a history of migraines and was wondering if her little head is hurting. Developmentally she’s on track, so I don’t worry about autism. She is teething and has been, so maybe it’s that. I should look into her ears too. You never know. If they could only talk! :)


by: CJs mom

my 22-month-old got so mad that he hit his head on the hardwood floor and has a huge swelt that is now bruised. I applied a cold pack and am very worried. He was irritable and sleepy, so once he did this, he fell asleep in my arms. I have heard conflicting remarks about letting them sleep. When he was a few months old, he fell off the couch and we rushed him to ER. they did an MRI and all was fine. What signs should I look for? should I take him to the ER? In need of advice from other parents who have been here before!!

Oct 20, 2017baby hitting head
by: new mommy

I’ve been researching this topic all over different sites and don’t see any comments for babies younger than 6 months. My son just turned 4 months and, today, started hitting himself on the left side of the head. He also seems to mostly do this while having his bottle. He had vaccinations today. I know babies can spike a fever afterward but can they also cause an ear infection which could be a cause of the hitting it seems? Any thoughts?

Nov 09, 20172-month-old baby hits & rubs his head, face & eyes
by: Precious5uk10

My baby hits & rubs his head & eyes from when he was 2 months old. It is particularly painful to watch him do this at night – several times. Sometimes this wakes him up from his sleep & sometimes he goes back to sleep. He is a very active baby, I thought it was just part of him being very active or his cradle cap is bothering him or that he is just tired or anxious & is doing this to release some stress. Reading about the ear infection comment, I think I can’t ignore this & must get his ear checked.

Nov 13, 2017Hits face while asleep
by: Lisa

Precious, my son, who’s 5 months old, hits himself in the head and face while sleeping… He also shakes his head while doing it ( as if he were saying no) — he also has cradle cap– but I’ve contributed his doing it in his sleep from his reflux. He prefers to sleep flat on his back which is probably the worse position for reflux. My husband mentioned to me that he witnessed the head hitting tonight so I’m online searching just to reassure myself that is why he’s doing it. Since I can’t find anything I’ll probably call the pediatrician Monday. Hope everyone has a good night :)

Dec 08, 2017Baby rubs head & face at night
by: Precious5uk10

Hi Lisa, I visited the GP & confirmed DS has no ear infection. I think it is due to reflux as well because sometimes he seems to move his mouth as if chewing on something. What did your doc say abt your baby jotting his head?

Jan 04, 2018My grandson hits himself in the head
by: Anonymous

I’ve been worried for weeks over this issue. My 18-month-old grandson hits himself in the head and across the face but nobody seems to offer a plausible answer. He is an “angry” toddler and has been from a few weeks old. His father is full of anger and according to his own mother was the same when he was a baby. Perhaps it’s just hereditary!

Jan 12, 2018Baby Hits Head
by: Heather

Hi Lori,

My 19-month-old son does the same thing and he also pulls his head. When they get to the age your baby is at, I think they either want attention or just not getting what they want.

When my son doesn’t get what he wants, he will get mad and hit himself in the head. Both sides at that.

Hope this helps with your question. But if you still feel like you need to talk to the doctor about it, I would if I were you.

Good Luck with you’re baby.

Jan 16, 2018My 15 months old slaps his head too

by: Anonymous

My son as well is only 15 months old and he does the slapping on his head and pulls his ears as well. The ear tugging I understand, but as far as him slapping his head it is very confusing to me and makes me feel hurt to see when he slaps his head like that… Think I should go see his primary doc!!

Jan 18, 2018Slaps his head
by: Shabs UK

My son does the same – slaps his head repeatably. I have been to see the doctor many times. They think I’m overreacting, but my son has had many ear infections in the past. I don’t know what to do now.

Jan 31, 2018Baby hit head too
by: 1st time mom.

Hi, my son is 14 months now and he has been hitting his head against anything when he is angry or trying to seek attention. Sometimes he will just crawl out of the playmat just so that he can hit his head onto the floor tiles. He has been doing this for a couple of months.

Some mums told me it’s a phase. It happens to my niece for about a year too. I do hope this phase will pass soon.

Feb 09, 20186-month-old hits himself
by: Anonymous

My 6-month-old son hits himself in the face with a balled-up fist quite a bit. When I took him to the pediatrician, he started doing this. I asked what it could be and he said “weird baby thing”. So I’m thinking that its nothing to worry about.

I do know not to ALWAYS trust the doctors, but he had just had a complete checkup and was healthy with no ear infections. He is teething tho, so maybe he hits himself in the face to override the teething pain in his gums. Maybe try some Tylenol to see if it helps.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Dilip

    My sister near about 3 yrs age. When she born she was normal baby and was speaking. But now she stopped speaking and only shouting n continuously hitting right hands to right side of the head. Her parents are so confused and wondering if they should be doing any kind of treatment for the baby to help her so please suggest any treatment for her.

    1. Hi,
      Your sister should definitely take her daughter to a pediatrician. She might be in pain due to an ear infection or even a very sore throat, for example. If she has stopped talking completely, then it could also be some developmental concern. But no one should recommend treatment without examining the little girl. It would probably be helpful for the diagnosis if they can write down when the problems started and if there is anything else that has changed in her behavior, e.g. her sleep, feeding, or activity level. I wish you good luck! Very kind of you to reach out to help you niece!

  2. Lilly

    My 9-month-old baby boy hits himself on the head with his fist or anything he can lay his hands on he also bangs his head on the glass door and even other peoples heads if he gets the opportunity.

    It appears he began doing this after my friend¡¯s toddler started hitting him on the head with a soup laddle several times. Poor little thing was in tears. After this event, it seems as though he is toughening himself up!

    Its times like these you wish they could converse as I really am not sure what it is all about.

  3. Also

    My son is 13 mos and will hit his head on the floor a wall or even me. There is no pattern, he does it when he is upset, or happy or neither I am really worried about it and will be going to the doctor.

  4. fgads

    The pain a baby gets from hitting themselves in the head is accompanied by a surge of adrenaline. They¡¯re basically just getting themselves high.


    My grandson slaps right side of face when he does not get what he wants, but I have seen him slapping the same side while he is walking alone. Does anyone have an answer?

  6. Christiana

    My 9mon son hits his self in the head.I hope he is ok. What should i do?

  7. Grandma

    My 16 month old Grandson does that also! And
    now he hits his head with a fist or even banging it on the wall, I¡¯m
    worried sick and came searching.