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Children are funny little creatures, and their weird behaviour can often leave parents convinced that there's something seriously wrong. But that's usually not the case...

One minute they 're in a dark flotation tank, the next they 're spat out into a fairground of light and sound. Is any wonder babies ,ct a bit odd?

'Everything looks upside-down from here'

New beginnings

'When my baby is lying down, she'll often fling out her limbs like a starfish,' says Alice, mum to Jenna, 3 weeks. 'It's quite a sudden movement, and I think she must be scared.'

This is called the Moro Reflex. It's a healthy sign and present in all newborns, occurring when a baby is startled by noise. If she doesn't have this reflex, her limbs jerk out asymmetrically or she starts to shake, check with your GP.

'During the first month, you'll become accustomed to your baby's behaviour, growth and development,' says Mary Steen, Research Fellow at the Royal College of Mldwives. 'If you're worried, contact your GP to arrange an examination. It may just be muscular spasms or, rarely, it can be a symptom of a more serious motor-neurological problem.'

Time to explore

Once babies are used to owning their body parts, you'll find that they quite like to get to grips with them. 'My 10-month-old son, Charlie, fiddles with his willy,'

says mum Judith. 'He even gets erections!' Most babies like to play with their genitals. They can stretch it, squash it and yes, make it go hard! So as toys go, it's got everything.

'It's normal and healthy for a child to explore his nether regions and it's not something that a parent shoulc draw attention to or discourage,' says Jennifer Margulis, author of Why Babies Do That: Baffling Baby Behaviour Explained (Willow Creek Press; from amazon.co.uk).

Get used to it, because babies will explore everything to hand -or head. 'My 9 month old leans back and bumps his head on things,' says John, dad to Billy. 'He's becoming aware of hard objects, testing out sensations and sounds,' explains Steen. 'Don't worry. If he hurts himself, he'll stop and want a cuddle.'

Exploring takes all manner of mannerisms - blowing raspberries, adopting odd stances. 'Ella, who's 9 months, can't crawl but she pushes her bottom in the air, straightens her legs and bounces up and down,' says her mum, Sally. Like all babies, she's merely in the starting blocks. And once they're off, there'll be plenty more peculiarity hurdles.

Small battles

The battle of wills begins early. You may be bigger and stronger, but that won't intimidate a little one with lungs to expand. 'My 10 month old has daily squealing sessions,' says Karen, mum to Thomas. 'He normally does it when he's in his highchair, and it's ear-splitting!'

When he's not happy, he'll let you know - by any means he can think of. 'When my 11 month old is over-tired and cries, he stops breathing, goes blue and stiff as a board,' says Jo, mum to Tom. 'He'll normally take a big deep breath in at the last minute and everything is okay again

'You know your own baby and when he's susceptible to this behaviour, pick him up and give him a cuddle and a kiss,' says Steen. 'This will divert his attention and he'll start to breathe normally.'

With babies, the bizarre is almost commonplace, so don't worry. It's been suggested that 20% of otherwise 'normal' babies head-bang in their cot. 'This theory suggests that it's a way for them to relieve tension. Like thumb-sucking, the rhythmic rocking accompanying head-banging lulls the baby anc helps him calm down,' says Margulis. 'It's also a way for him to stimulate his vestibular system, which is responsible for balance and motion.' Make sure you're giving your baby

'Wow, wee! Look at all this space around me!'

Crying for help!

The one type of baby behaviour you're sure to be monitoring is crying.* But there's often a simple explanation. On average, babies cry 1/2-2 hours a day. It's a way to communicate hunger, discomfort, affection, wind - all easy to check by a process of elimination. Babies with colic, which they usually get in the first three months, will cry more, and your health visitor can offer advice. *An unusual high pitch cry or moan is one symptom of meningitis; if you're worried, contact your GP.

'Wow, wee! Look at all this space around me!'

enough attention, but don't worry if he does bang his head from time to time - if it hurts, he'll stop.

Ha-ha, bonk

It might look like he should be wearing a helmet, but banging, bucking and rattling about like a rodeo rider is all about pushing developmental stages and, best of all, tickling the chuckle muscle. 'My 6-month-old son, Ethan, loves rough and tumble sort of play,' says Ailsa. 'He's happiest when he's being held upside down.'

'At 6 months, babies love to play and are developing their sense of space and depth,' says Steen. 'But a word of caution: holding a baby upside down can bring on motion sickness and make him feel dizzy. So you should be careful not to over-do it.'

There are lots of upright giggles to be had. In fact, you'll probably find that your baby reacts with gurgles and grins to anything acutely stimulating. From gentle peek-a-boo to tickling and sudden loud noises, the element of surprise never fails to raise a smile.

t Social circle

Babies love baby faces so introduce him to a 'little friend' and you might find some serious staring going on anc even a bit of eye-poking.

Personal space? There's no such thing when it comes to the under 1s. 'It's really embarrassing,' says Anna, mum to Harvey, 7 months. 'Every time we get together with other babies, Harvey grabs at them. Not just touching, but proper pulling. And he isn't the smallest of kids.'

Curious and congenial babies you do find; ones out for a fight aren't so commonplace. Grabbing and yanking are normal and healthy. 'Babies don't develop finer finger movements until they're about 3 years old,' says Steen. 'Therefore they'll grab with their full hands forcefully.'

When babies have a social 'issue' however, it can be quite upsetting, especially if the person in question is a family member. 'My 3 month old always screams when her dad holds her,' says Elspeth, mum to Maddy. Elspeth's daughter is still feeling vulnerable, which means that she'll cling to the person who cares for her most. It's not personal - it's just that for the time being, mum is safer.

'When your baby's relaxed and happy, get dad to hold her and talk to her,' says Steen. 'Involve him in feeding, changing and bathing, so that he becomes more familiar with her. It may be that you've just got on with these tasks and he hasn't had many opportunities.' ►

'Don't I look cute in my new hat?'

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