ADHD Symptoms in a Baby

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Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is usually diagnosed when a child reaches school age. Although doctors are reluctant to give a child an ADHD diagnosis before the age of 5 or 6, there are symptoms that occur in infancy that may be linked to behavioral problems, such as ADHD, when the child gets older.

Excessive Crying
All babies cry. They cry to express discomfort, hunger, loneliness, frustration and fear. Parents learn to identify their child’s needs by the tone, volume and urgency of the crying. Some babies, however, cry incessantly for no obvious reason. If your baby cries without provocation and cannot be consoled, ADHD may be a factor to consider. If a baby has colic and an extremely irregular sleep pattern, he may go on to be diagnosed with ADHD in early childhood.

Short Attention Span
Kids are notorious for short attention spans, especially infants and toddlers. Babies who have exceptionally short attention spans may be at risk for ADHD. Some early warning signs are the inability to focus on simple tasks, or listen to short stories that are designed specifically to capture infant’s and toddler’s attention.

Some babies squirm more than usual, resist being held or cuddled, or have difficulty settling down at bedtime. These habits can be a normal part of a child’s personality, or they could indicate a potential problem as the child gets older. Restless babies can be difficult to feed, and may have a hard time accepting new foods.

Tantrums or Sudden Outbursts

The well- documented temper tantrum is typical of babies and toddlers. When a child can’t communicate verbally, or doesn’t get what he wants immediately, he may hurl himself to the floor and scream at the top of his lungs to show his displeasure. All kids are prone to having a temper tantrum now and then. Babies who have ADHD take the temper tantrum to the extreme. They may engage in head banging, or excessive rocking back and forth in their crib or high chair.

Does My Baby Have ADHD?
If your baby exhibits any of these symptoms, it does not necessarily mean he has ADHD or that he will receive an ADHD diagnosis when he gets older. All of the personality traits we have outlined can be considered normal behavior for infants and toddlers. If your child is displaying symptoms long after his same age peers seem to be gaining control of their temperament, you should express your concerns to your pediatrician. If the behaviors seem excessive or beyond the normal range, it may help to keep a journal and document the frequency and duration of the behaviors to help the doctor make an accurate assessment.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "ADHD Symptoms in a Baby," in, March 10, 2017, (accessed September 29, 2022).