I am going to let you in on a behavioral secret that apparently Google doesn’t want you to know about OR other moms have not been brave enough to speak up and out about. My twin boys began banging there heads at about 9 months old. On their cribs, on the floor, on my shoulder. Not consistently there would usually be a spark. Teething happened to be the trigger that got them started on our almost 10 month journey. I began mentioning it at Dr’s appointments and they would just merely brush it off, and say they aren’t going to hurt themselves. I started Googling it and would read articles filled with nothing but sad stories, and neglected singleton babies. I am a full time stay at home mom, we have loving helpful family, and I strive to balance my attention between my sweet trio of boys. I was defeated.
The behavior would go something like this, my identical twin boys began cutting a tooth and headbanging became comfort to them. When I would rush to their side, their twin brother would get the hint and start banging and the cycle repeated. After that things like bringing one in from the car first and putting him down (there were times when I couldn’t always carry both in at the same time), or getting up to tend to their other brothers needs, getting a toy taken away, or removed from a dangerous situation, to me simply removing myself from the floor to use the restroom, we would get headbanging. At about 13/14 months our nap trained babies began protesting their naps by banging their heads on the sides of their crib. This was all causing such bad bruising, and in 2-3 scenarios bloody noses.
I felt in my heart they just were so frustrated. They have been later to develop language then my singleton, and they were also a little later to pick up on sign language. This was the only way they were feeling like they could communicate, and my over reaction and urgent attention started to feel like a reward. Now I am all for intuitive mothering, and I also know babies are not manipulate so I use the term “reward” to describe more of a cause and effect that began to take place.
Finally at our 18 month check up I talked to our pediatrician a little more in depth about it. How I felt like I had become a slave to the floor, holding off my personal needs and neglecting regular schedules for fear of them hurting themselves. As a mom of twins herself, she finally gave me the comfort I needed. She let me know that it is not uncommon for children in pain due to teething, or ear infections to head bang as a form of relief. It is also not uncommon for babies who are feeling frustrated to communicate to exhibit this type of behavior. Most importantly it s not uncommon for twins to develop this behavior. She asked me how I was responding, and I explained how every time I basically dropped everything I was doing and ran full speed to them. At this time I began struggling with Bedtime which had always been such a easy process for us. But weaning from our night sessions caused a whole new round of headbanging. Our Pediatrician offered 1 simple piece of advice. 2 commands to respond with.
“Its not time for head banging, Its time for bed.”
“Its not time for head banging right now, Its time for ( whatever redirected activity)”
So sure enough when the headbanging began at bed time after we had our whole bath, snuggle, nursing, bottles, and story time I would step away from the crib (not run towards it), or walk back into the room again not up to the cribs and I would say “Its not time for head banging, its time for bed.” I would usually also let them know “Momma is here, momma loves you but its not time for head banging right now.” It began to work! I couldn’t even believe it! I started getting braver during the day as well and saying it when head banging was the behavior of choice. “Its not time for head banging right now. I know that was very frustrating your brother took your toy but we cant head bang. or I know your teeth hurt so bad right now but we cant head bang.”
I was shocked that this began to work! Bed times are no longer a struggle, and we haven’t suffered violent headbanging sessions in so long! We still occasionally deal with the fake out and we go back to our dialogue and make sure we are validating feelings and situations but the stress surrounding has melted away. As we get closer and closer to language and communication development and the easing of the communication barrier I know I will look back at this as a thing of the past.
So Momma of Multiples if you are dealing with this please know you are not alone, there is hope. It wont last forever and your babies wont damage themselves and you most certainly are not a failure.
Photo Credit: Megan Simpson Photography