Wild Child: What to Do About Your Baby Banging Legs During Sleep

I don’t recall my eldest baby slamming her legs in sleep. What I do recall is that before bedtime, she’d climb up on our bed and bring her legs down, slamming the bed. She thought this was hilarious.

I thought our crappy bed in China just might collapse to the ground. Somehow, it held together.

It seems that a baby throwing legs up and down in sleep is a fairly regular occurrence. Some babies lift their legs in the air while sleeping. Others bang their heads. But when a baby banging legs during sleep worries you, here’s what you should know!

Why does my baby slam his legs down at night while sleeping?

If your 4-month-old slams his leg down while sleeping, you should know that this kind of behavior is normal from this point to around 6 months of age. Boys tend to do it more often, though there is a big reason for this in any baby.

While it is not the most common thing babies do, it is fairly common. Common enough that you – in most cases – do not need to worry.

Babies and toddlers, too, can be restless when they sleep. The good news is they likely won’t hurt themselves in the process and will grow out of it.

Baby lying on the desk

Very rarely, it could be pediatric periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD). This would need a doctor’s assessment, but it is marked with jerky legs, twitching feet, kicking, and other leg movements during sleep. Babies with this rare disorder usually resist bedtime, be restless during sleep, and violently toss and turn. For older babies, changes in behavior will clue you in.

Restless leg syndrome is a bit more common, though these symptoms happen when your child is awake.

Before you run to the doctor fraught with worry, these are less likely to be the case. Mostly, no one really knows why babies lift and slam down their legs or do any weird movements while they sleep. However, there is a theory…

They’re self-soothing

While you might find those leg lifts and slams worrisome, this rhythmic movement is soothing to your child. At the age where they can self-soothe, you may notice head shaking, limb movement, or thumb sucking.

This is a good sign since you want your baby to sleep on their own. To encourage self-soothing behavior, you can put your child to bed when tired and not yet asleep. It’s also ideal for letting them sleep in their own space and giving them time to soothe themselves before jumping in to help.

Some say they may be doing this to chase away anxiety, but there’s no evidence of this that I can find.

How to get the baby to stop slamming their legs in sleep?

Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot you can do here. If you are genuinely concerned that this might be a rare PLMD, you’d need to have your doctor evaluate your child.

You don’t need to worry if your child doesn’t have any signs of injuries from this repeated slamming of the legs. But you should worry if your baby doesn’t sleep enough at night.

You’ll know this by how cranky they are by day or whether or not they nap. They also seem like they can’t concentrate or are a bit spacy during the day. Behavior that continues past toddlerhood is certainly something to have investigated as well.


The best thing you can do is let your child slam their legs at night if they’re not hurting themselves. Making sure they have a safe sleep environment also helps. But if they’re getting adequate sleep, they’re likely soothing themselves back to sleep.

And that’s a good thing, isn’t it? Because when your child wakes in the night, they need to learn to go back to sleep without crying for us.

Let me present to you the case of my friend Ashley who has twin boys. And both of them started slamming their legs at night. She freaked out because this had never happened with her daughter.

But she was so worried, so she asked the doctor for their next checkup. She said he asked her how they were during the day and a few other things. Then he smiled and told her they were simply learning how to soothe themselves back to sleep.

With all their other milestones in check for weight and height increases, plus they were engaging and responding to stimulations, it showed that all these little twinsies were doing was making their mama worry needlessly.

They were about 5 or 6 months old at the time. By the time they turned 8 months old, they weren’t slamming their legs.

Bottom line…if your baby slams their legs, makes strange head movements, or does anything else that freaks you out, you can call the doctor if you’re worried. Chances are that it is simply a stage they will grow out of, and everything will be fine.

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