Baby Throwing Legs Up and Down in Sleep: What Should I Do?

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Newborns are genuinely restless sleepers. They can be active all the time and flip back and forth continuously while their eyes are closed. Parents will worry when they see a baby constantly throwing their legs up and slamming them down in sleep. Is this problem affecting health or not?

Through this article, let’s explore the most specific answer and the moment when you need to take your little one to the pediatrician.

Why Do Babies Throw Legs Up and Down In Sleep?

Lifting the legs to the sky and touching the hands is one of the expected behaviors in babies. There are many common reasons for this, such as self-soothing or self-stimulation.

However, this behavior is usually relatively benign in the majority of babies and does not pose any worrisome signs. Over time, these signs will gradually fade and change as the baby grows. They do not affect the child’s development or overall health.

Parents should also pay attention if the baby has strange signs or symptoms. They can be a rare type of disability called PLMD.

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1. Self-Soothing

Most babies tend to lift their legs in the air during the first few months of life. When lying on their back, their position tends to bring their arms and legs towards the body with the hips arched.

Foot-beating and rhythmic movements during sleep are due to their rhythmic nature. It makes children feel soothed and makes it easier to fall asleep. Your baby’s leg muscles are getting firmer as the weeks go by. The baby could stand upright on the surface and strengthen his legs himself.

baby lying and sucking toes

2. A Response to Anxiety

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, infants between the ages of five and nine months can develop separation anxiety.

It happens when the child doesn’t realize where his parents are and starts to feel panic. For newborns, they can’t tell the length between an hour and a minute.

The fear that a parent might leave and never come back makes the baby uncomfortable. Therefore, they begin to perform swinging actions as a way of self-soothing.

3. Self-Stimulation

The act of lifting legs up and slamming them down can stimulate the system during childhood development. The golden age is when babies reach four to six months. At this point, the baby will start kicking or swinging his legs when he feels excited.

The baby will begin to move and have an awareness of his surroundings. Here, your child may start swinging his legs and kicking objects on purpose. Besides, children also begin to realize that their feet can move their toes. From there, they will continuously raise their legs to feel those movements.

Some babies can even put their toes in their mouths and start sucking to feel their tongue and lips. It helps to increase the ability to perceive and empathize with the senses.

Sometimes, these daytime habits can also affect a child’s sleep. It can do it unconsciously without realizing what it has done. These actions help children train and put strength into their legs. After the first year of life, you will notice the difference in your baby.

4. Pediatric Periodic Limb Movement Disorder

The signs above are not too severe and affect the baby’s health. However, in rare cases, lifting and slamming their legs up and down while sleeping can be a sign of a disorder.

Pediatric Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD) has a frequency of 20 to 40 seconds every 30 minutes. These arm and leg movements often occur during non-REM sleep.

Some common symptoms that you need to look out for are:

  • Frequently turning over and waking up at night. Uncomfortable and restful sleep.
  • Your baby doesn’t want to go to sleep.
  • Your baby turns over and is startled from sleep.
  • Irritability, anxiety, fatigue, and even depression in babies.
  • Involuntary limb movements include leg flexion, stationary kick, or convulsion.

Besides PLMD, another syndrome that causes children to lose control of their lower limbs and function unconsciously is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). However, the difference between PLMD and RLS lies in the baby’s perception. While RLS usually occurs only when the baby is awake, PLMD occurs more often during sleep.

baby sleeping in bedside crib

When To See The Pediatrician?

Most of the time, your baby’s unconscious leg movements are just a manifestation of mobility, sensory stimulation, and self-comfort. In fact, parents do not need to be too concerned about them. Things only become serious when the baby shows signs of discomfort or self-harm.

The safest option is to find a way to contact a reputable pediatrician. They can offer the best advice or solutions to your baby’s health problems.

Try observing your little angel often. If you notice one or more of the symptoms on the list below, start making an appointment with your doctor:

  • The baby has poor concentration, is tired, or is bored during the day.
  • Inadequate nighttime sleep or naps. Babies often wake up in the middle of the night.
  • The back-and-forth motions that take place continuously cause injury.
  • The twitching and kicking happen throughout the day, not just during sleep.
  • After the baby is an adult, the behavior of lifting and bending the legs still occurs.


Hopefully, this article has helped you understand why your baby lifts their legs up and slams them down while sleeping. They can be signs of self-comfort or sensory exploration. In more severe cases, this movement is a symptom of Pediatric Periodic Limb Movement Disorder.

If you suspect your little angel is suffering from this syndrome, contact your pediatrician immediately. On the contrary, rest assured that this is just a normal stage of your baby’s development.

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