Why Does My Baby’s Chin Quiver? (Noticing Odd Baby Movements & When They Should Stop)

Chin quivering and other non-voluntary reflex movements in newborns can mainly be attributed to an immature nervous system and, in most cases, should cease within the first two to three months.

Newborns come into this world full of surprises for unprepared parents, including all parents.

For most parents, noticing any odd baby movements or sounds is no easy pill to swallow.

You may pick up that your little one’s chin will fleetingly quiver for no apparent reason, and this will be a big shock that delivers a healthy dose of stress along with it.

As parents, we are constantly looking, watching, and inspecting everything about our newborn baby just to make sure everything is in order.

When we notice what we think could be a serious health issue, we rush to the hospital or our doctor for answers.

This is the right action to take regardless of the outcome because there could be something triggering this or any of the other normal involuntary movements that babies may display.

Let’s look into what causes a quivering chin and find out how we as parents should respond.

Your baby’s first few months of life

While in the womb, your baby is pretty much deprived of space, so stretching and exercising those newly formed muscles is not on the cards.

Babies are born with fundamental motor skills and may only be able to bring their hands awkwardly up to their mouth as a means to soothe themselves.

Your baby’s nervous system is still developing and will take a few months to function properly.

Brief involuntary jitters or shakes like a chin quiver are actually a response to something around your baby like sudden noise, or it could be a hunger cue or a sign of distress or discomfort during a diaper change.

Mothers learn to read and understand their baby’s cues, and these early involuntary response movements can be seen as your baby’s first visual communication with you. 

Although these brief quivers, shakes, and jitters are mostly harmless, it is still important to monitor them, especially the length and severity, as babies also have seizures.

It’s essential to understand the difference between these normal baby movements and more serious issues like a possible seizure.

What causes a quivering chin in newborns?

You may detect a brief quiver in your baby’s chin that will last no more than a few seconds.

A newborn baby's chin is quivering as he is sleeping

A quivering chin, trembling bottom lip, jittery hands, and twitchy limb movements are caused mainly by an immature nervous system that is still developing.

Don’t worry too much, as this is considered normal in the early stage of development after birth.

If you notice any odd movement behavior, it is always wise to bring it to your doctor’s attention. If you can, take a video so your doctor can make a clearer determination and advise you accordingly.

In most cases, your doctor will tell you not to worry but to still monitor your baby and record the frequency and length of the movements.

These fleeting involuntary actions indicate that nervous system signals from the brain are not yet fully developed.

As your baby’s nervous system matures, these movements will become less frequent and will finally disappear.

The whole process is normally completed within two months but may take a month or longer with some infants.

Motor skill development and shivering

Motor skills develop at different times and result in twitching occurring at different stages in your baby’s development.

For example, in the first 28 days, you will focus on the head and neck in preparation for your little one to hold their head up.

Twitching of the wrists and fingers occurs a bit later as part of the development of fine motor skills.

The Moro or startle reflex

The startle or “Moro” reflex is typically a reaction to loud noise or other environmental stimuli.

Your baby will throw out their arms, legs, and fingers and arch their back in response.

This will only last a few seconds and is common in all babies up to 3 months old but can continue until about 6 months of age.

Quivering chin as a feeding cue

A quivering chin is not necessarily because your baby is cold or wants to cry.

Mom is breastfeeding her newborn after noticing his chin quivering as a possible sign that he's hungry

Sometimes your baby’s chin will quiver in anticipation of feeding as you bring them closer to your breast.

There are many different facial muscles that all work together to effectively and efficiently operate your baby’s mouth. 

A quivering chin indicates just how complex this part of an infant’s body is. It takes a bit of time to get all the nerves linked up and functioning normally.

Babies are born with the ability to suck, and when their palette is stimulated, they immediately go into sucking mode.

Stimulating the outside of your baby’s cheek by gently touching and massaging the area will get your baby to turn in that direction and open their mouth to feed.

Babies don’t shiver

An interesting fact that not many people don’t know about babies is that they only develop the ability to shiver by six months old.

Until this time, they have a built-in heater in the form of brown fat known as brown adipose tissue, which is burnt to keep them warm.

According to Professor Paul Colditz, President of Paediatrics and Child Health at the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, the sole purpose of brown fat is to provide a rapid source of energy to keep an infant warm.

Babies will only begin shivering at about six months old as a means to generate body heat.

Professor Colditz confirms that jittery movements are a common part of a baby’s development but cautions that it could signify something much more serious.

Signs of seizures in newborns

Newborn seizures differ from seizures in older children and adults.

Listed below are seizure signs in infants to look out for:

  1. Repeated episodes that are basically identical with similar duration.
  2. Episodes that are not triggered by changes in posture or activity.
  3. Changes in your baby’s facial expressions, breathing, and heart rate.
  4. Rhythmic movements that typically occur on one side of your baby’s body or are symmetrical where both arms or legs do the same thing simultaneously.
  5. Uncontrollable shaking or jerking that you can stop even if you hold your baby.
  6. If shaking continues for longer than 20 seconds.
  7. The seizure could be related to a recent injury or an illness.
  8. If the seizure is followed by vomiting.
  9. Unusual eye movements.
  10. Your baby sleeps for longer than usual.
  11. If there is a loss of consciousness or your baby’s breathing stops.

After a seizure episode, your baby may appear fine, but other symptoms will begin surfacing as the seizures continue.

It is imperative to have your little one urgently examined by a doctor to determine the cause of the seizures and to advise you on treatment.

FAQs

Is a chin quiver a birth defect?

No. A chin quiver is caused by a still-developing neurological system that sends more electrical impulses to the muscles than necessary, resulting in a chin quiver.

In most cases, chin quivering will dissipate within two to three months.

Why does my baby shiver when not cold?

Babies do not begin shivering until they are about 6 months old.

The shivering you see could be due to low blood sugar and will resolve itself after eating, but it’s best to see your doctor to clarify the situation.

A proper diagnosis referenced to circumstances and the medical history of your baby is important to your baby’s health and wellbeing.

Conclusion

Noticing that your baby’s chin quivers from time to time for no reason at all can be disheartening.

But according to medical professionals, in most cases, it is the result of a still-developing nervous system and will pass within a few months.

These brief involuntary movements are often referred to as the baby jitters for apparent reasons.

If your little one has the “baby jitters,” it is always a safe option to discuss the details with your doctor just to be sure that it’s not anything more serious.

Hi! I'm Jennely. My hands and mind can't be still; neither can my three-year-old. So I'm either chasing him or my next project. I like to work smarter, not harder. This is why I write on topics that will help parents solve problems and enjoy precious moments with their little ones.

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