Why Do My Newborn’s Eyes Roll Back? (Developmental Milestone Or Reason To Worry?)

If a newborn rolls eyes in sleep, it’s because they’re jumping between different sleep cycle stages, so rolling eyes and stirring are entirely normal activities. Newborn rolling eyes when awake is also simply a developmental milestone for them.

Newborns have blurry vision, so they do all sorts of things with their eyes until their eyes become strengthened. There’s a reason to worry if you see other warning signs along with an eye roll.

Various health conditions can cause newborns to roll their eyes. Focusing on other symptoms can help identify the issues. Seeking consultation from a healthcare provider can help diagnose the situation faster. 

For your newborn, you’re very concerned and are watchful of all their activities, be it yawning or moving their hands and any facial expression they might show. The moment their baby is born, parents don’t want to miss a chance of overlooking anything that can turn into any kind of health condition.

So when you see your newborn rolling their eyes, you become worried and wonder why it is they’re doing that! Suddenly you become overprotective and want to rush to your pediatrician to confirm if there’s anything wrong with your newborn. 

But before rushing, let’s see if there’s even a reason to worry about your newborn rolling their eyes?

Reason your newborn rolls their eyes back

When you’re introduced to your newborn after the painful journey of birthing them, they seem the perfect child in this world. Everything is so new you can’t probably take your eyes off of them. 

You notice each and every little thing about them, including how many times they poop, feed, or sleep. And in noticing such small things, you might also come across many moments when you see them rolling their eyes.

While at first, it can seem scary, so you see if they do it again, and you might notice them doing it often. While the natural instinct in you is to get worried, you should hold your horses before jumping to any conclusions.

Most of the time, rolling eyes for a newborn means that they are in a particular stage of sleep amongst different stages of it, and it’s in a specific stage when their eyes might flutter or roll.

Newborn babies rolling eyes in sleep

Dad is observing his newborn son who seems to be rolling his eyes back in his sleep

Your baby has just come into this world, and so sometimes they might seem very alert otherwise, they’re just sleeping.

There’s only so much a newborn does in the early months of life. But if you see your baby rolling their eyes in sleep, you should understand the stages of sleep to know how normal all of this is.

Since babies don’t sleep for 7 hours straight like an adult, they have different sleep cycle stages.

In stage 1, they’re in deep sleep when they’re sleeping peacefully, and sometimes they might move their finger or toe but won’t quickly get up from their sleep. 

In their 2nd stage, which is usually more light and active sleep, any noise can easily startle them, and they might wake up crying. You can often see their eye movement in such a state, which is rapid and weird. In this cycle, they’re alternating between different stages of sleep. 

In their 3rd stage, their eyes might roll under their half-closed eyelid, and they might even move their arms or legs. It’s probably this stage your baby might roll their eyes, and you might think something is wrong with them. 

After this stage, they will either wake up and remain motionless, alert and happy, or start crying. 

This is one instance where it’s completely normal to see your baby roll their eyes in their sleep, and it’s completely normal and acceptable for them to do so.

Although it might last for a few seconds, there’s nothing to be worried about if you don’t see any other signs or symptoms.

Rolling eyes as a developmental milestone

It’s not just in a state of sleep one might be rolling their eyes, and you might find them doing so even when they’re wide and awake. 

When your baby is just born, they don’t have the perfect 20/20 vision, and their vision might be 20/200 or 20/400. They might sometimes look at things intensely and, other times, squint their eyes or even roll them when there’s bright light around. 

It’s all part of their developmental milestones amongst so many yet to come. They can’t see clearly at this stage of their lives, so it makes sense why their eye movements would be rapid or weird as they have blurry vision. 

As your baby starts to grow, their vision also starts becoming clearer, and by six months of age, they can see far away objects and even detect colors, and you won’t see them rolling their eyes. 

If you see them rolling their eyes even when they’re awake, it’s a normal developmental phenomenon.

Other possible causes for eye-roll in newborns

A newborn boy is laying on his back looking around

While newborn rolling eyes is mainly considered a normal developmental phenomenon or something they would do when jumping between different sleep cycle stages, it could also be a warning for an impending medical condition. 

Nystagmus

Infantile nystagmus syndrome (INS) appears within the first six weeks of the baby being born or in the next three months when vision becomes normal.

It’s either genetic or occurs later in life. But in this condition, your newborn’s eye movement is out of control, and it might be fast, or slow, and fast again.

It occurs because of a nerve signal block between the eye and the brain’s visual cortex. 

Strabismus

It’s a misalignment of the eyes and is common in newborns and babies.

Commonly known as crossed eyes, this occurs mainly because your little one’s eyes aren’t fully strengthened yet.

It should go away by the time they turn 4 months old, and if it still doesn’t, then it’s time to get their eyes checked out. 

Seizure

Weird eye movements such as rolling eyes could be an early sign of seizures.

Random and abrupt pause in activity with the eyes slightly gazing to the side could be one sign to watch out for. More noticeable symptoms may include the baby’s arms coming up with a slight head nod and their eyes rolling up.

Issues such as febrile seizure, meningitis, infantile spasms, juvenile myoclonic spasms, and electrolyte abnormalities are some related issues that can cause seizure and eye roll in newborns. 

With a proper diagnosis, a treatment plan can be developed. 

Some additional issues

A newborn is sensitive, so there might be various health conditions causing abnormal eye rolls in them.

A doctor arrives at a proper diagnosis and treatment plan only when close attention is paid to varied symptoms. 

But eye roll could also be caused by issues like injury to the head, low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia. You should immediately seek your healthcare provider when you see obvious signs apart from eye roll.

FAQs

When do babies’ eyes stop rolling back?

Newborns don’t have proper eyesight, and they neither have strengthened eye muscles. It’s normal for their eyes to do all weird movements during this time, such as roll eyes or cross-eyes.

By the time they turn 4 to 6 months old, their eyesight should become normal, and they can recognize color and see far away objects. 

If any weird eye movements persist, then it’s time to consult with your doctor. 

Is it normal for a newborn to have rapid eye movement?

Newborns might have weird eye movements during this early stage of their life, but there’s nothing to be worried about unless other warning signs or symptoms accompany it.

There might be instances when their eyes move rapidly or suddenly become still, which is normal. 

But their eyes jump up and down or move erratically too much, then they might have nystagmus. It’s when the eye’s motor system isn’t developing normally. 

Can eye-rolling be a seizure?

Eyelid myoclonia is a kind of seizure where there’re brief periods of jerks of the eyelids, eyeballs roll upwards, and the head may move slightly backward.

It mostly lasts for a few seconds and can happen anytime during the day. 

Are premature babies at more risk for eye issues?

Premature babies aren’t fully developed, so they have to be kept in the hospital until they complete the time of their due date.

Premature babies tend to have more difficulties developing than full-term babies. So, having eye issues is normal, for they’re still catching up on their growth.

To summarize

Seeing your newborn roll eyes can be concerning, especially for first-time parents. Most of the time, it’s nothing to be worried about. Rolling eyes is just one of the developmental milestones in many more to come in your little one’s life.

It’s essential to take notice of any other warning signs or symptoms apart from eye-rolling. It’s then when you should be concerned or think something isn’t right. Then you should seek consultation from your healthcare provider. 

It would be best if you took notice of all the signs that worry you so a faster and proper diagnosis can be conducted. However, if they’re eye-rolling and showing no other signs of concern, then enjoy this phase of your newborn, for this is merely a normal developmental milestone!

As a writer for 1happykiddo, Saumya wants to help new parents and older siblings help raise the newest member added to the family. Her parenting tips come from her experience of being 15 years older than her youngest sibling. When not writing, you can find her reading novels, traveling, and cooking nutritious meals.

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