Bringing a new little miracle into your life is like holding a whole galaxy in your arms. There’s so much joy, wonder, and of course, a whole spectrum of emotions. Every twitch, shiver, or cry from your infant can send your mama bear instincts into overdrive!  The first time I saw my little bundle of joy twitch like she was having a tiny earthquake, my heart skipped a beat. Was it a seizure? Had I done something wrong? Thankfully, my mum friends quickly reassured me – it was just Infant Shudder Syndrome. So fear not, mama!  We’re here to shed some light on this obscure aspect of infancy called Infant Shudder Syndrome.

What is Infant Shudder Syndrome?

Think of Infant Shudder Syndrome as a teeny hiccup in your baby’s muscles. It’s a fancy way of saying they have brief, involuntary shivers that come and go in a flash, usually just seconds long. These shuddering episodes mostly happen in their upper body – the head, arms, and sometimes even their little trunk . The good news is, these shudders do not usually involve loss of consciousness or other concerning symptoms.  It might look a bit dramatic, but rest assured, it’s usually nothing serious. Your baby will likely be going about their normal activities when a shudder occurs.

Even though science hasn’t figured out the exact reason for these shudders yet, the important thing to know is that they’re usually harmless. It is also crucial to distinguish this syndrome from more serious conditions, especially seizures.

What Causes the Shudders?

Baby sleeping calmly in a green blanket without any symptoms of Infant Shudder Syndrome

While the exact pathophysiology – the underlying changes in the body that cause these shivers – remains a bit of a mystery, here are some possibilities:

  • Some experts say it might be a reaction to something like loud noises or bright lights, kind of like how we grown-ups might jump a mile high when the fire alarm goes off! 
  • Others think it might just be an immature nervous system finding its feet. 
  • Sometimes, other medical conditions can cause baby’s symptoms to look like Infant Shudder Syndrome.  For example, low blood sugar can sometimes cause tremors in babies. Be sure to mention any medications your little one is taking to your GP, as some can have side effects that might mimic shudders. Also, if you have relatives that have suffered from tremors, it might be helpful to mention this to your GP. They can help you determine if your baby’s sudden shudders are simply benign myoclonic jerks, or something else to monitor. 

Ruling out these other possibilities is important to avoid a possible misdiagnosis and ensures your baby gets the right care, if needed.

The good news is that even though the unknown cause of these little shivers might be a bit of a mystery, they usually don’t require a formal diagnosis and even less so any special treatment. They’re just a little baby quirk, like that funny way your baby always roots for your nose when they feed. 

Calming the Jitters

Mum holding a baby sleeping so the Infant Shudder Syndrome calms down

So, your little one starts doing their best shimmy routine – what should you do? First things first, stay calm, mama!  These shudder attacks, (sometimes called “shuddering spells”) might look scary, but remember, they’re usually nothing to worry about. Sometimes, just a little cuddle or a quick feeding can help soothe your baby and ease whatever might be causing the shivers. However, watch out for these recurring tremors, especially if they’re mostly in your baby’s arms and upper body. If this shaking seems out of the ordinary, it’s best to have an evaluation done by your Child Health Doctor for further investigation.

Beyond Infant Shudder Syndrome

Beyond this benign phenomenon, there are other of conditions that can cause shuddering in infants. While these infantile spasms are a benign condition, understanding the different between other similar conditions, lends an additional lens for parental clarity.

Shudders vs Seizures

We all know the worry monster can creep in fast, especially when it comes to our precious little ones. Seizures are a major concern for many parents, and Infant Shudder Syndrome (ISS) can sometimes mimic them. So, how can you tell if your baby’s shivers are just ISS, or something more concerning like epilepsy? Benign shuddering attacks, as indicated by the medical community, tend to be more common than their seizure counterparts.

Here’s a tip:  Keep an eye on how often the shudders happen, how long they last, and if anything seems to trigger them. If the shudders last for a significant amount of time, if your baby loses consciousness, or if your child’s symptoms include rhythmic movements or crossed eyes, then it’s best to get a check-up with your GP. They might even refer you to a specialist like a pediatric neurologist or an epilepsy center. These centers have medical professionals who are trained in diagnosing and treating seizures in babies and can help get to the bottom of what’s causing your little one’s shudders.

Shudders vs Sandifer Syndrome

Sometimes, acid reflux (you know, that burning feeling after too much spicy food) can make babies really uncomfortable. Sandifer Syndrome is caused by this reflux, and it makes babies twist and arch in strange ways after eating.  While it might look similar to shudders, Sandifer Syndrome usually involves longer episodes of twisting and turning, and in the majority of cases involves pretty intense crying.

Shudders vs Tuberous Sclerosis

Tuberous Sclerosis is a rare genetic condition that can cause all sorts of issues, including seizures. If shudders are accompanied by other things like skin changes or developmental delays, then it’s worth mentioning these to your pediatrician. They might want to do some tests to rule out Tuberous Sclerosis or other similar conditions.

Shudders vs West Syndrome

West Syndrome (also known as Infantile Spasms) is a type of epilepsy that specifically affects babies. The spasms in West Syndrome look quite different from shudders – they’re more forceful and often involve the baby’s whole body stiffening up. If you notice this kind of stiffening or jerking, get help from your doctor immediately.

Shudders vs Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy is a condition that affects movement and muscle tone. Babies with Cerebral Palsy might have tremors that look a bit like shudders. However, these are usually mixed with other signs like stiffness, delays in reaching milestones, or unusual body positions. If you’re concerned about Cerebral Palsy, a chat with your GP is definitely the way to go.

Shudders and Night Terrors

Sometimes babies experience other types of movements during sleep, such as night terrors. If you’re noticing the shudders mainly at night, it’s worth chatting with your GP about these too.

Testing the Waters with Diagnosis

An integral part of understanding Infant Shudder Syndrome is getting a definitive diagnosis. Your GP knows about this condition, but they’ll also want to rule out anything more serious. They may do a thorough physical exam and even order an electroencephalogram (EEG) to check your baby’s brain activity during a tremor.  If anyone in your family has a history of essential tremor, be sure to let your GP know. This information could help them understand whether your baby’s tremors are harmless or if there’s something else to consider. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask questions or seek a second opinion if you feel unsure. It’s about ensuring your little one is doing well!

Reassurance for Worried Mamas

Baby sleeping calmly in an ivory blanket without any symptoms of Infant Shudder Syndrome

Here’s the best part: most babies eventually outgrow Infant Shudder Syndrome on their own, without any special treatment. Those shivers will become a distant memory. Of course, if the shudders seem out of the ordinary or you have any concerns, always talk to your GP. They can answer all your questions and give you peace of mind.

When do the Shudders Fade Away?

You’ll be relieved to know that Infant Shudder Syndrome is usually just a temporary thing.  For most babies, those little trembles tend to disappear on their own. Here’s a general timeline:

  • Most Cases: The shudders generally start to become less frequent and intense around 6-8 months old.
  • Outgrowing It: Most little ones outgrow Infant Shudder Syndrome completely by the time they hit their first birthday. Occasionally, those shudders might linger a bit longer, sometimes even up to two years of age.

Keep an Eye Out: Even if the shudders seem to fade away, watch out for any changes or if any new types of movements appear. It’s always a good idea to check in with your child’s doctors if you have any questions or something just doesn’t feel right. Mama intuition is a powerful thing!


I remember those sleepless nights, scouring the internet, watching my baby like a hawk for other symptoms… it’s normal to worry, mama! My best advice is: remember, you’re not in this alone. Talk to experienced mums in your family and your support group. Share your experiences, your anxieties, and the crazy questions that pop up in the middle of the night. We’ve all been there! So, take a deep breath, mama, you’ve got this!

Note: This post is based on my personal experience, conversations with other mothers, and advice from my pediatrician, but always talk to your Child Health Doctor if you have any doubts. 

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As a mum of two, deep in the trenches of snack negotiations and mysterious sticky substances, I know firsthand the joys and challenges that come with raising little ones. My project management background means I thrive on organized chaos, so expect practical tips and maybe a few sanity-saving resources along the way.

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