7-month twins moving hands like conductors-Normal?

As first-time parents, we have identical twin 9-month olds (7 month corrected). No complications while in the NICU for 45 days (born at around 3.5 pounds), have been healthy since coming home, and have gained weight quite quickly (currently ~20 pounds).

When our twins' hands are free (such as when sitting in someone's lap, laying on their backs on the floor, or on back in the crib), they make motions with their arms and hands as if they are musical conductors -- sometimes slowly, and other times quickly. It especially is present when they seem nervous, but even when relaxed, if they are not focused on holding on to an item, their hands and arms move aimlessly like they are conducting for an orchestra.

We've asked our parents if this is "normal" baby behavior, but they "can't remember", which needless to say, makes us worry.

They are capable of directed hand movements to pick up and hold an object, and nothing seems alarming about that (they seem to have control of their hands), but it appears as though, when they aren't consciously moving their hands, they just "conduct" -- hands twist back and forth, arms flap, etc. They don't seem bothered by it or even seem to notice it. The movements are often "jerky," too. Head motions are always smooth, though, so it doesn't seem to be systemic to all muscles. During bottle feedings, these movements don't occur as much, but can, on occassion, make it difficult to feed. (Again, seems related to stress level, but it also happens when the babies do not seem stressed, such as happy excitement about getting attention.)

We read in a baby book that these motions and jerkiness are caused by connections still being made in the brain, but that they reduce and smooth down at 3 months.... but we're hoping someone else can tell us that this is normal behavior, or if they're familar with what it might be.

Do your babies' arms and hands constantly move in this sort of fashion?

Obviously, we're going to bring this up at our next pediatrician appointment, but I'd like to ask some other parents because we are starting to get a touch of paranoia. I have some video that I'm tempted to post on YouTube, but I really dislike the idea of getting medical advice from the Internet. :-)


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I'm guessing that by the lack of responses, nobody has seen their baby do this constant "hand motion".

So I'd like to ask... what do your babies (~6-9 months old) do with their arms and hands while you bottle feed them? How about when they are on their backs--do they stick their arms up in the air and move them around? How would you describe this motion? (Imagine you're describing it to a blind person, so that I can get an idea of how other babies of 6 to 9 months of age move their hands and arms).


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Hi there,
Congratulations on twins! I am a first time mom and this is my first post because I believe my son does the same thing you are describing.

Joshua is a 33 weeker and is 7 mos old, 5.5 corrected. In the past month or so, he has been "flailing" his arms, but with some control. He does it mostly when he is tired, and when we are feeding him a bottle, the arm that is free will move up and down (kind of like you described as a conductor) and he hits himself in his forehead with the back of his hand! I was getting really worried!

I did ask the ped at his last appt and she didn't seem concerned because he does it with both arms (depending on which way he is facing when we feed him). She suggested possibly it was seizures but we both doubted that. He is normal in all other aspects and he doesn't do this all the time. I also have visits from a program called Help Me Grow which is due to his prematurity, and the nurse who evaluates his developmental and motor skills was thinking it was that he is working on developing his centerline control (not really what she said, just my interpretation). Basically, hand and arm control as the baby moves his hands together toward the center of his body. I don't know if that makes sense... We've just gotten to where we get him to hold our finger or something while he is eating to prevent him from doing that. It doesn't always work, but I hate seeing him whap himself in the head. And it doesn't seem to bother him in the least when he does this either. And truly, he does it most when he's tired...

Joshua is extremely healthy and happy and developing extremely well; the ped and the nurse from HMG are just thrilled with his progress. We are blessed beyond measure for what he and I had to go thru to get him here.

Hope this helps in some small way. Overall, I'm thinking it's pretty normal at this point, as long as all other skills are developing well.

Good luck,

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My baby was a 24 weeker--1 pound 1 ounce. He is now almost 10 months old and is obsessed with his hands. He also did this "waving" motion with his arms occasionally (I guess you can call it a conductor thing). He now waves 'bye bye' when asked. I was all worried about autism, as they say arm flapping can be a sign of autism (thanks to Jenny McCarthy for freaking out parents). I now think it is a normal development thing for these preemies (the physiotherapist wasn't worried). I know with my son, his posture was changed due to being on his belly for so long in the NICU incubator (his arms splay back a bit). So maybe its just a security thing for them (my son is still on oxygen)--i'm always told to make him feel more secure in his high chair with towels etc...because they feel 'lost in space' when their arms are flailing around.

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My 7 month is not a preemie, but he does exactly what you are describing. I mentioned it to the doctor and she said it was not a cause for concern right now. I am terrified about autism as someone else stated. I'm curious to see what your doctor said. Please reply. I am extremely anxious these days.

Thank you!!

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I had some YouTube videos posted that I just removed 10 minutes before you responded. Wish I still had them available so that we could compare notes. Do'h.

My boys still do this motion. At times of stress (such as during feedings), it gets even more exagerated, but they do not seem to even notice their hands moving through the air.

Since posting this, we have an early intervention physical therapist that has observed them they quite literally said, "I don't know what it is." They checked with a different PT and they, too, are not sure what it was.

Their explanations are that perhaps they're trying to get a "feel for their environment."

However, they show no autism signs. The link between "moving hands" an "autism" was caused by a famous movie star's spouse, but there really isn't a link. Our boys show no signs of autism.

Does your baby have good eye contact? Do their hands stop waving when they're holding on to something (like a hand?) I notice the fingers still move around, but what we've been told is that they are still creating connections to their brain on how to control the hands and fingers.

I did found other babies on YouTube that do the same motions (about 20 other videos -- not significant considering the number of babies on YouTube). I emailed one of the parents, and she responded, saying her baby did the motions from 6 months of age to 9 months, and then it suddenly ended....and her baby is now 18 months old and has no issues.

Good job on observing the hand motions early. The early intervention person we're working with said that many parents don't notice the most obvious behaviors such as this.

We are still concerned just as much as you are about the "conducting hands". However, the fact that there is no other sign of autism has made us feel better. One thing that might help you is to view the videos on autismspeaks.org. See the "autism speaks video glossary" -- you'll have to sign up to Log in and view it.

We aren't concerned about autism anymore, but we are still concerned about other potential neuological connections. Still no answers -- just more questions... but less concern over autism.

How is your 7-month holding up to the "expected behaviors" lists? Are they babbling? Ours are very quiet still...

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Thank you very much for responding to me so quickly. I feel a little better now. He doesn't do it when he is holding an object. He is able to pass a toy from hand to hand and he is babbling fairly regularly. More so in the last few weeks. He is now able to sit unassisted for long periods of time or at least until his 2 year old brother knocks him over! I guess I'll just be patient and continue to watch his behavior. Actually, most people don't pick up on it. My mom watches my boys two days a week and works in a daycare and didn't notice it until I said something to her. He goes back to the peds in 2 months, so maybe we'll be lucky and it will have stopped.

Again, thank you very much. I might look for the videos on YouTube. I was searching but only found the hand flapping which is not necessarily how I would describe what my son does. Any keywords to use when searching?

Happy New Year!

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Take a look at the following video (it's not of my baby) -- but the look just at the hand motions (ignore the head shaking).... the hand motions (like "jazz hands" or conductor-like motions) are what I think you're talking about:


For our boys, the hand motions are even more pronounced. I'd repost our videos, but it took a long time to get them on the site, and I've got a cyber-stalker "fan" that has been digging up everything they can on me, since they know who I am...

If, in a few weeks or months, we need to communicate more about this, let's get in contact via email.

We had relatives that "noticed" the hand motions, but did not say anything until we did, and suddenly, fear was cast upon us because then, suddenly, everyone else claimed they saw the hand motions but just didn't think they were important. While the fact that our pediatrician and early intervention PT's have never seen these sort of hand motions before is somewhat calming (since it's not a common condition), it's still leaving us wonder if this is a lesser-known condition that we're just noticing early on (such as Tourettes).

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I have a son who is 6 1/2 months old, 4 months adjusted. He is also doing this! But, not all the time like you describe. When he is scared, stressed, startled, etc....he shakes his arms. Very shaky! I was concerned, but the docs also don't seem to be....and they seem to think it is just taking its time going away. I too was worried about Autism, but he has no other symptoms. He makes great eye contact, follows me with his eyes from a room, laughs, smiles, etc. He "talks" all the time too. I am mildly concerned about the shaky arms, but I asked another girl I know about this, and she says that her son does it too, and he is 5 months old. So, I guess it is just prevalent in some children. I would imagine once they get their coordination under control it will get better. It actually helps me know that my son is having a hard time, or very hungry. My biggest concern right now is that he keeps getting "cool" to the touch and when I take his temp during this time it is like 97.7 degrees or so. I take it again about an hour later and it is normal. I don't know if this is serious or not, but just concerned. If you find out what this is, let me know. I am curious about the shakiness.

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You mentioned that your baby's "arms shake". Do the entire arms shake (from the shoulder down to the hand?) It does not sound like you have anything to be concerned about. What you are describing is the moro reflex, which will go away around 6 months of corrected age. :-)

The motions I'm discussing involve rotations of the hands at the wrists. The motions do not (as much) involve the arms or elbows, as you describe; instead, the arms and elbows, while positioned outwards in front or to the side of the body, remain almost stable, while the hands (fingers) wiggle and the wrists simultaneously rotate. If you look at the YouTube video that I found, you'll see how the baby's hands are moving and rotating at the wrists, but the arms do not "flap" or "shake".

Arm flapping is most likely the baby trying to get a sense of balance and center of gravity. The rapid shaking from getting startled is actually a reflex that goes away around 6-months (corrected) of age -- this is the sensation a baby has "built in" as a reflex to help protect from damage. This "startle reflex" is documented in many "What to expect"-like books.

You should actually be concerned if your baby does not have the "startle reflex" as you describe. at the age your child is currently at. This is completely normal and is described in all babies. If this moro reflex continues past 7 months corrected, you'd want a CNS evaluation, but it doesn't sound like anything warrants based on the other activity you have with your baby.

Since you shouldn't trust someone on a message board, here is some information you can use. This "reflex" is also calleed the "moro reflex".

The Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex, is one of the infantile reflexes. It may be observed in incomplete form in premature birth after the 28th week of gestation, and is usually present in complete form by week 34 (third trimester). It is normally present in all infants/newborns up to 4 or 5 months of age, and its absence indicates a profound disorder of the motor system. An absent or inadequate Moro response on one side is found in infants with hemiplegia, brachial plexus palsy, or a fractured clavicle. Persistence of the Moro response beyond 4 or 5 months of age is noted only in infants with severe neurological defects. It was discovered and first described by Austrian pediatrician Ernst Moro (1874-1951).

This reflex is a response to unexpected loud noise or when the infant feels like it is falling. It is believed to be the only unlearned fear in human newborns. The little Albert study used the startle reflex in the famous classical conditioning experiment to make him fear white fuzzy things.

The primary significance of this reflex is in evaluating integration of the central nervous system (CNS), since the reflex involves 4 distinct components:

spreading out the arms (abduction)
unspreading the arms (adduction)
Crying (usually)
SOURCE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moro_reflex

Visit the above wikipage for more information on this behavior. :-)

Regarding the "cold temperature", home temperature probes are never accurate, unless you're getting a rectal temperature, and most probes have a FDA-allotted error of +/- 0.4 degrees F. If your baby is cold, as is typical at this time of the year, dress them in more layers. The general rule is to dress your baby in one more layer than what you're wearing; so if you're wearing a t-shirt and a sweater, your baby should be in at least 2 layers and perhaps three. You will also want your thermostat set to 76 to 78 degrees F.

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Sean who is 13 years old did this when he was early. He was 1 lb 12 oz. I have to say he looked more like a nazi hailing Hitler. Hands straight and arms stratched out. It was very amusing to watch. Chipmunck cheeks, always glaring at lights and arms moving all over....and the skinny long fingers that looked like some kung fu guy too.

No worries....
Enjoy your preemies.

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Thank you for the Youtube link. The hand movements in the video are very similar to my son. I do notice that it is more pronounced with he's excited (like to eat) or when he is tired and stressed.

He had a follow up dr. appt. this morning (he was sick last week) and a new doctor also said it was not a red flag for autism or anything else right now. He was very matter of fact, but did say to keep watching it. He felt like there was no other symptom to suggest autism. I'm hoping that he grows out of it in a few months like the baby in the video.

Good luck to you and please let me know if anything has changed with your twins.

Thank you.

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I will certainly let you know of any changes or discoveries. They will be approaching 12 months of age soon (10 months corrected age) and have still been doing it.

And you're right--during stress and eating (or excitement, such as when on the back and anticipating a tummy attach), the arms will be up in the air, and the fingers will be wiggling and wrists rotating. They don't seem disturbed by it or even seem to notice it, and it stops when they have an object in the hand (like assisting during a bottle hold) -- but even then, the fingers are still wiggling around.

The good news, I suppose, is that the medical professionals "have not seen this before." Perhaps we're just hyper-observant (although other people have noticed the hand motions). The bad news, I suppose, is that perhaps it's something not well known in the medical books if it's anything to even be concerned about. Do'h...

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I have a 7 month old who was not premature and he has these hand movements just like in the you tube video. He has no other signs of autism. He has the loudest laugh, makes great eye contact and tries to reach for everything.
Reading all these comments makes me feel alot better. I've heard all the autism hand flapping talk and have been worried sick.

It seems he only does it when he is agitated or excited. When he is holding something or playing with his toys he does not do it.
It sounds like its pretty common for infants in this age group. I feel much better that other children do it and it sounds like they grow out of it. I'm so glad I found this discussion.

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My son is almost 8 months now (was not premature) and he is still doing it. It seems a bit more pronounced at times, especially in his high chair when he's eating. I'm still concerned, but I'm trying not to worry about it too much. We don't go back to the dr. until he's 10 months and I would love for him to have "outgrown" it by that time. But, that might be wishful thinking. The autism thing is my biggest fear, although I guess it could be something else. Two doctors have seen him and don't really have concerns now. They just said to keep an eye on it. Please keep us posted if you have any new information.

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How are your sons doing? My son's hand movements seem to becoming more pronounced. My husband is now somewhat concerned, but he is still convinced it's not autism. I don't know what to think. I'm still hoping it's something that as some others mentioned, he will grow out of.

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They're still doing the hand motions as they approach 10 months (corrected). They do the motions less when they are focused on something, like holding a toy. Diaper changes (when they're stressed) or sitting in the highchairs (again, can be stressful for them, as they rarely eat half a jar each during one solid feeding attempt).

My wife and I like to think they're doing it less because their hands are more busy with toys and exploring. Both started crawling, so they're exploring a lot more than ever before. I think other people started noticing their hand motions when they became more pronounceda round 8 months of age. We wonder if it's just "circuits" turning on-line in the connection between hands and brain.

We see the pediatrician in a couple weeks, but I'm sure he'll say the same thing as he did 3 months ago, which is to wait and see.

Perhaps we could discuss further updates in email,, as I recently found out that someone I used to know has been Googling my alias (after linking my name) and finding out things about me. (The Internet is never private, especially with cyberstalkers). I'm not sure if there's any way to send a private message to someone on this board. And posting our email address in a public forum will result in endless spam. *sigh*

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I dont go back to my ped until feb 29 his 9 month visit. I definetly plan on mention it to her and I will let you know what she says. My son does not do it while he is drinking his bottle but when he is eating baby food in his height chair he does it. Almost like he does it in anticipation of the food. If he is busy playing with toys on the floor or watching baby einstein he doesnt do it. I guess its only when he is bored or has nothing to occupy his attention.
I have been researching the whole autism thing on the internet and I am convinced it is genetic. A couple different scientist say they have isolated a gene. But of course there are still millions of theories. My husband has several cousins with autism and that has been weighing on my mind.
Besides the hand thing he is perfectly fine. He is a little chatter box and has the heartiest laugh. I will keep you posted, please do the same.

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I came across your comment after doing Goolgle search on "hand flapping" because my 7 month old son (I have twin boys) just starting doing the hand flapping only at the wrist as you described (not arms) within the last 2 weeks. He does it when he gets excited or is sitting in the high chair about to get his bottle. He doesn't wiggle fingers, just moves, wiggles or waves his hands at the wrist up close to his body chest high. He does not do it when playing with toys. He does seem more hyperactive then his brother. His twin brother does not do this (I know I'm not supposed to compare babies especially since they are fraternal) but I can't help but to wonder if I should be concerned? Media talk of Autism is frightening - I don't want to be paranoid, just informed to keep a watchful eye to be pro-active. He does have the "moro reflex".
I just wanted to comment that I too have a baby that does this and it helps to read other comments from other parents going thru the same worry and concern and trying to find peace of mind. Thank you.

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I don't believe what you are seeing is actually the classic hand-flapping symptom. Search you tube for "autism hand flapping" and you'll see examples of what it looks like.


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Hello and congratulations on your new additions!!

I found your posting during a Google search about these hand movements. We have a 3-year-old son who I cannot remember if he did this and a 7-month-old daughter who has shown this for at least 2 months now. Both of my children were full-term; Ryan at 37 weeks and Allison at exactly 40.

I never paid much attention to it except when she hits herself, which oddly does not bother her. She is very people-oriented and always has a big smile for everyone she meets. We have not hit the fear-of-strangers stage as yet.

Autism was my first concern. But being such a people-person herself, it did not fit. I also was anxious as I had to take blood thinners throughout my pregnancy with her and feared they may have harmed her.

It was our new daycare lady that mentioned it as she had a friend at church whose baby did the same thing. Apparently, according to the friend, there is a medical term for this (like for the Moro reflex) but I have not been able to find it.

She doesn't do the hand flapping like in the video. It is more delicate than that. Describing the movements as conductor hands is the perfect description. I had been using the term "hula dancing hands" as it can be that delicate of a movement when she is calm. At daycare they copy her movements and dance and she just loves it!!

Our pediatrician was familiar with this and was very unconcerned--but he never shared what the term was. Likely he didn't want me to search the web to learn about it and stir up any fears--just like I am doing! =0)

He described it as "a function of an immature nervous system." (Remember, our daughter was not a premie.) He also mentioned the feet do this but the hands are usually what gets noticed, especially when the child is in the highchair. He said it was self-stimulating so she isn't really conscious of the movements. He said to keep watching her to see if it interferes with her using her hands (it doesn't) and he expects her to grow out of it as her nervous system matures and she improves her motor skills.

I have seen him act like everything is fine when it wasn't, just so he would not alarm us. However that was before he knew how I would react. I don't see him doing that in this case. Our daughter is susceptible to meningitis during her 1st year as I tested positive for Group B strep during pregnancy. He kept us informed what to look for and to respond quickly if we saw the signs but otherwise to relax. If these movements were any concern, I would expect him to give us the straight story.

He is very happy with her development as she is right where she should be--happy, healthy, popping out teeth and starting to crawl.

I greatly appreciate your posts and I will continue to look for the medical term for this. Thank you!!!

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