The Truth About Eye Rolling in Infants and Toddlers


Close-up portrait of sweet newborn baby breastfeeding. Adorable new born caucaian kid holding moms finger with his cute little palm while breast feeding. Focus on hands. Young mother nursing baby

Babies are so interesting to watch, and the way they interact with their surroundings is endlessly entertaining. One thing that many people notice when watching a baby is how their eyes roll back while nursing. This can be alarming for new parents, especially those who have never seen this before. This article will talk about the reasons your baby is rolling their eyes, and what you can do about it.

Why do my baby’s eyes roll back when nursing?

While breastfeeding itself does not cause eye-rolling in babies, most moms often observe their baby rolling their eyes during nursing sessions as their little one is relaxing. Eye rolling tends to happen during the transitional time between sleep and wakefulness, and nursing is a relaxing time for your baby.

It is normal to see a baby roll their eyes while nursing. Most babies who are doing this tend to develop the behavior between the ages of 2 and 6 months. This is a natural reflex that helps them focus on objects within their vision. It’s an involuntary action, like stretching or scratching your nose, and most commonly means baby is calm.

If your baby rolls their eyes while nursing, you may also find that they are trying to see your face. They’re trying to look around, and since their vision is still developing they will find it more challenging to focus on things and different distances. Staying in clear eye contact with your child during a feeding session will encourage them to exercise their eyes, and also allow you to take note of their behavior.

What does it mean if my baby is rolling their eyes?

Babies can do all sorts of strange things just because they’ve figured out how to do it. Rolling their eyes while nursing is just another thing that babies do. It’s not necessarily a sign of anything being wrong, and it doesn’t confirm that your baby has an eye disorder.

Eyes of a baby less than 2 months old may seem to drift outwards or cross unintentionally. Most parents find that there is no cause for concern as their baby’s eye coordination will improve over time.

A gassy baby may roll their eyes back as they try to release the gas. You might find they’re doing this alongside those beautiful little infant smiles that are actually just a sign that their digestive system is processing their meal!

It’s possible that your baby may be rolling their eyes because they are hungry, or not getting enough milk when nursing. In this case, it might help to nurse more frequently and/or for a longer time in each feed.

Keep in mind that your little one understands feeling uncomfortable or frustrated, but won’t use behaviors like eye rolling to communicate anger or some other type of displeasure.

Eye rolling may continue past infancy into the toddler stages!

Both of my children actually rolled their eyes up to around 18 months. More often than not it was when they were embarrassed; it most commonly happened when they word the center of attention, or if they had just had some naughty behavior called out!

With my youngest in particular, eye rolling was accompanied by an extremely cheeky grin. When he got bored of it, everything would go back to normal. I think to a degree he was reveling in the attention that he got when he rolled his eyes; almost as if it was a party trick!

Will eye rolling while nursing lead to future vision problems?

Since infant eye rolling on its own is generally a normal part of development, it is unlikely to lead to vision problems. There may be vision problems if your child is rolling their eyes extremely frequently, or if it is a symptom of another medical issue.

If you are concerned about your baby’s health, keep a watchful eye. If baby rolls their eyes back once or twice, then it’s just about keeping an eye on them for now. But if they’re doing it more frequently than that, I would recommend consulting with your doctor for advice specific to your child.

My eye rolling children, who would regularly roll their eyes the first year and a half of their life, have not gone on to have any vision problems or been diagnosed with any related disorders.

How can you tell if you need to seek medical attention for your eye rolling child?

When a baby rolls their eyes back while nursing, it may be due to an underlying medical condition or because the child is developing normally. Sometimes it is hard to tell, but caregivers can usually tell when something is wrong with their babies. Parents should never ignore any warning signs when a baby rolls their eyes, as early intervention may have better outcomes than waiting for a delayed diagnosis and start of treatment if required.

If you are concerned about your baby’s eye rolling, contact baby’s pediatrician or your family doctor for a referral to an ophthalmologist who specializes in infants and children. They will be able to examine your baby’s eyes and offer advice that is specific to your child.

In the lead up to the appointment, keep track of the frequency and timing of the eye rolling (notes like it happens before/after sleep, time of day, duration of the behavior etc) to include in your discussion. Also note any other symptoms your baby exhibits, including illness (or illness of a family member) or other stresses that might apply. (including travel or meeting new people)

If you have can take a video of your baby rolling their eyes back it could make it easier to show the doctor what is happening, just in case it doesn’t happen while at the appointment.

Carly Wight

Mother of two young boys (6 and 3!) and an avid "Googler", Carly is the kind to research something to the nth degree. Be it about products, hacks, or techniques, she shares what she finds out at her website - Fairy Good Mommy.

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