Frequently, as you have discovered, one year olds can display behaviours such as slapping, hitting and even biting and these are perfectly normal at this age. While these can sometimes be due to frustration, often they are driven by sensory exploration.
Babies under one explore with their hands and mouth and hit as a way of exploring their world. They enjoy seeing what happens when they hit things and people; cause and effect is fascinating to babies!
Why do babies slap my face? Babies get fascinated by the sound their hands make. Likewise, if we hold a baby near our face and he hears the same sound by hitting our face, he will be happy and would love to repeat the gesture. He is still exploring things around him.
“Many babies hit their heads as a self-soothing mechanism before or during sleep,” she says. “Even though this can cause concern for new parents, it's totally normal behavior for babies to do this for short periods of time (not lasting longer than about 15 minutes).”
It is developmentally normal for toddlers to hit. It is the parent's job to supervise and handle toddlers kindly and firmly until they are ready to learn more effective ways to communicate. Kids will grow out of it if they get help (skills training) instead of a model of violence (hitting back).
Research shows that even infants are affected by and can remember events that threaten their sense of safety. A response such as PTSD following a traumatic event is not about the event itself, it is a result of the perception of powerlessness that was sensed by the infant.
Biting, scratching, hitting are very common. It is often a response to frustration and, at your daughter's age, language isn't developed sufficiently so that she can tell you verbally what is upsetting her. Biting and scratching is a way of communicating."
Your baby is exhibiting a reflex.
The arm movement involved in “hitting” might be a reflexive motion that your baby is exhibiting, and the soothing and calming nature of breastfeeding might enable your little one to relax so much he doesn't realize he's engaging in the reflexive motion.
As a parent, you don't have the legal right to smack your child unless it is 'reasonable punishment' - find out more from Child Law Advice. If the violence you use is severe enough to leave a mark, for example a scratch or a bruise, you can be prosecuted for assault or the child can be taken into local authority care.
They're having a bad day
When your toddler has an off day, they may simply lash out because they're cranky and don't have many coping skills. "Even kids who don't hit or bite often can lose control when they're stressed, or at the end of a long day," says Dr. Schechter.
When they feel pain, hurt, or fear, babies get angry, just like the rest of us. At 14 months, your baby responds to these angry feelings (and the underlying disappointment or pain) by hitting you. When you use “gentle guidance” to say that we don't hit, and her face crumples, that's a great sign.
Most children resort to hitting their parents because they do not have any other means of showing their frustration. While elders can calm themselves down by expressing their frustrations and anger, the toddlers cannot do the same because they lack verbal skills.
When infants display anger and aggression, it is often due to discomfort, pain or frustration. Older babies will use aggression to protect themselves, to express anger or to get what they want. When your baby is aggressive, it is because he has not learned a better way of behaving.
For the most part, this type of gentle hitting is simply part of being a baby. “Babies often 'hit' for various reasons. Sometimes it's to get your attention or a reaction from you,” as Jay Lovenheim, D.O., F.A.A.P. of Lovenheim Pediatrics tells Romper.
It's thought by some that gentle, repetitive tapping on the bum is said to mimic the sound and rhythm of a mother's heart beat in the womb. If your baby was head-down-bum-up like most are in the third trimester, their wee bottom's are what was closest to Mom's heart in utero.
Once melatonin, which Lathrop described as “that good, sleepy hormone,” starts to produce and you don't go to bed, or put your baby down for bed, adrenaline starts to produce inside the body. That's when people (of any age) go in the opposite direction: even getting irritable or slap-happy.
Young children bite, pinch and pull hair to experiment and explore their environment. Babies put things into their mouths to explore and learn through taste and touch. At 6-12 months, biting, pinching and hair-pulling also help babies work out cause and effect. It's a way of getting to know their world.
“For instance, a baby may not remember explicitly the time they were yelled at in the kitchen booster seat when they were 6 months old, but their body remembers the way it recoiled, the way it pumped blood to increase oxygen to the muscles in response to feeling unsafe,” Keith explains.
According to researchers at Yale University's Infant Cognition Center, also known as “The Baby Lab,” babies can actually tell good from evil, even as young as 3 months old.
Babies and toddlers are directly affected by trauma. They are also affected if their mother, father or main caregiver is suffering consequences of the trauma. If their home and routine become unsettled or disrupted as a result of the trauma, babies and toddlers are also vulnerable.
But many first-time parents find that after the first month of parenthood, it can actually get more difficult. This surprising truth is one reason many experts refer to a baby's first three months of life as the “fourth trimester.” If months two, three, and beyond are tougher than you expected, you're not alone.