Shaking & Tremors in Infants

Some babies develop shaking and tremors shortly after birth.

These symptoms are not normal and indicate a prenatal problem with the mother’s health or use of prescription or illicit substances. To give the baby the best chance at developing normally, the cause of shaking should be determined so the baby gets the appropriate treatment.

Diabetic Mother

Infants born to mothers diagnosed with gestational diabetes face specific health risks. The mother’s high blood glucose levels impact the fetus’ own blood glucose levels prior to birth.

If the mother’s diabetes is not kept under strict control during her pregnancy, she runs the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or having a baby suffering from birth defects, writes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Shortly after birth, the infant experiences shaking and tremors. He also may be born with mottled or blue skin, a rapid heart rate and rapid breathing. He may have trouble feeding, be lethargic and cry weakly, all signs of very low blood sugar.

The baby’s face may be puffy. He may develop newborn jaundice.

Prenatal Drug Exposure


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Medical personnel must take a detailed drug and alcohol abuse history from the mother before attributing an infant’s symptoms solely to prenatal drug exposure.

An infant with intrauterine drug exposure may experience leg and arm tremors from birth until her first birthday or longer. The tremors are due to the child's brain overreacting to muscle actions in the body – a lingering effect of exposure to methamphetamine or cocaine, writes Dr. Rizwan Shah of Blank Children’s Hospital. This baby should not be overstimulated and her caregivers should do as much as possible to reduce the stress she is exposed to – her living environment should be calm. In addition, her doctor may decide to refer her to physical and occupational therapists.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Mothers who drink regularly during pregnancy expose their unborn fetuses to alcohol. The alcohol – wine, beer or hard liquor – interferes with normal development. The baby develops shaking and tremors after birth as the child's body withdraws from the alcohol. Overall symptoms of fetal alcohol syndrome include a low birth weight, small size and delayed growth.

In addition, the baby may have a small head, small, abnormally formed brain and small eyes. His nose may be flat and shortened and he may have a thin upper lip. His cheeks may be flat, and he may have a small jaw. His ears may be unusually shaped, and he may be prone to ear infections. He may experience sight and hearing issues, minor joint defects and heart defects. When his teeth appear, he may be more prone to cavities than children who were not exposed to alcohol before birth.

Prescription Medication Use in Pregnancy


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If a pregnant mother is given promethazine, and she takes it long-term, her baby may develop jaundice and muscle tremors after birth. Antihistamines and decongestant medications, when taken at lower doses and for short periods, should not cause any health issues for the infant, according to the St. Cloud State University Student Health Services website. However, if morning sickness is becoming a problem for the mother, she should try to rely on prescription medications for the shortest time possible, instead using lifestyle changes to treat her symptoms.