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Why Do Babies Roll Their Eyes While Sleeping And When To Worry?

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Eye rolling in babies can be worrisome for most parents. However, many infants may roll their eyes for normal reasons and without any pathologies. Do seek medical care if your baby rolls eyes too frequently and has signs and symptoms of any neurological disorders.

Read this post to know more about the causes, symptoms, warning signs, and considerations to keep in mind about eye-rolling in babies.

Why Do Babies Roll Their Eyes While Sleeping?

Babies may roll eyes since their eye muscles and the visual system are not yet completely developed. Eyesight and control over eye muscles gradually develop in babies over time (1).

Eye rolling tends to happen during the transitional time between sleep and wakefulness. You may often notice eye-rolling when your baby falls asleep or while breastfeeding. It can be slow, repeated opening and closing of the eyes. While breastfeeding does not cause eye-rolling in babies, most moms often observe their little ones close their eyes during nursing sessions.

Neurological disorders, head injuries, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), fever, etc. may cause seizure-related eye-rolling in many babies. Younger babies may roll their eyes since they have poor eye muscle control and developing brain functions. Whereas, it couldbe more likely due to pathology in a ten-month-old baby who has developed reasonable control over the eye muscles.

Warning Signs And Symptoms In A Baby Rolling Eyes

Eye rolling can be normal in many circumstances. There won’t be any signs of behavioral or physical changes in babies who have normal eye movements. But, pathological eye roll may also be associated with other symptoms depending on the brain’s affected area or the problem with the visual system.

If you notice your baby rolling eyes often, look for signs of neurological disorders such as infantile spasms (West syndrome). You may also look for any warning signs of serious illnesses that may cause eye-rolling in infants. These warning signs may include (2):

  • Limb stiffening
  • Shivering
  • Irregular breathing
  • Increased irritability
  • Jerky body movements or convulsions
  • Prolonged crying

These can be symptoms of seizure in babies, and they may often require special care to avoid head injuries or other traumas during the seizure. 

Eye movements not seen as normal include eyes that look only to one side and seem to be ‘stuck’ that side or eyes jerking from side to side constantly and not just associated with falling asleep or feeding.

What To Do If A Baby Rolls Eyes?

Frequent observation is required to determine whether eye-rolling is severe or not. You may keep a log of the number of times eye-rolling occurs and any associated symptoms. Daily records on the baby’s eye-rolling habit can be useful for diagnosis.

If possible take a recording of the event on your phone. It sometimes comes in handy when the healthcare provider is seeing the baby when the eye movements are not happening.

A seizure can be due to fever, infections, or epilepsy disorder in babies. Seek immediate medical care to diagnose the cause.

When To Consult A Doctor

Consult your baby’s pediatrician if you notice abnormal eye-rolling in your baby. If you are concerned or suspect infantile seizure, discuss with your doctor to diagnose the causes.

Babies may roll eyes due to pathological conditions or as a result of normal development. Although it is challenging to differentiate while observing, many parents or caregivers can sense when something is wrong with their little one. Never ignore any warning signs when a baby rolls eyes, signs since early intervention may have favorable outcomes than a delayed diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders.

References:

MomJunction's health articles are written after analyzing various scientific reports and assertions from expert authors and institutions. Our references (citations) consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Infant Vision: Birth to 24 Months of Age; American Optometric Association
2. Infantile Spasms Symptoms and Diagnosis; The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center