Trying to figure out why your baby is scratching their face?! Although very common among newborns, it can be prevented easily!
Babies, especially newborns, tend to scratch their faces quite often.
This can be concerning for first-time parents as they have no idea why babies do this or how to stop it.
The small scratch marks on their delicate face can make you feel guilty.
Babies have very thin and sharp nails.
Thus, even a small scratch can leave marks on the baby’s face. But before you rush to the doctor to find a solution, you should first understand what may be causing this and why babies do it.
Why Does My Baby Scratch His Face So Much?
There are several reasons why babies scratch their face…
1. Lack of control
Newborn babies do not have control over their hand movements.
They bring their hands close to the face without knowing what they are doing. This involuntary action can sometimes result in scratching.
Once the baby develops better control of their hand movement, they stop hurting themselves.
2. Startle reflex
Newborn babies are very sensitive to sound and light.
They feel shocked at the sound of a dropping object or shimmering light.
When this happens, they arch their back and accidentally bring their hands close to the face. This can cause scratching.
3. Exploring body
Babies tend to explore their surroundings, including their face.
When they were inside the womb, they hardly had space to move around. Once out, they want to touch and feel their surrounding.
This is a natural phase of growth. This exploration can sometimes result in scratching of the face unknowingly.
4. Emotional reason
Babies scratch their face when upset or bored.
When bored, babies tend to swing their hands and legs up in the air. They bring the hands close to the face and scratch it to show that they are uncomfortable.
This typically happen when they feel hungry, have a wet diaper, or while feeling hot or cold.
5. Dry face
If you feel that the baby is scratching the face voluntarily, then it could be a sign of dry skin.
Adjusting to the world outside the womb is not so easy for the baby’s delicate skin. Sometimes this can result in drying out of the skin.
This usually appears in the form of baby acne or peels. Sometimes the baby develops an allergy to some skincare product or develops a condition called eczema.
All this can result in drying out of the skin.
When Do Babies Stop Scratching Their Face?
Newborn babies are not in control of what they do.
All their movements are involuntary and reflex actions. Only when they are four months of age, they start getting better control of their movement.
Babies usually stop scratching their face between four and six months.
But some babies tend to scratch the face even longer if they have developed it as a habit.
How to Protect Baby from Scratching Face?
There are different ways you can prevent the baby from scratching his face.
1. Trimming the nails
In most cases, scratching of the face by babies is an involuntary action. Until the baby is four months of age, he does not have any control over hand movement.
Thus, the best way to prevent a scratch mark is to trim the baby’s nails.
The right time to trim the baby’s nails is when they are sleeping or feeding.
You should use a nail clipper with rounded edge, specially designed for babies. You need a lot of patience while cutting those tiny fingers. If you feel nervous while cutting, you can even consider filing the nails.
Baby’s nails grow very fast. Make sure you check them once every week to ensure that they are trimmed and kept short.
2. Use mittens
Mittens are small gloves that are used to cover the baby’s palm.
If the scratch is caused by babies’ involuntary action, then it is best to make the baby wear mittens. This not only protects the baby from scratching the face but also keeps the tiny palm warm and cozy.
Another option is to make the baby wear hand socks. Hand socks cover the hand till the elbow. This is a good choice if you are staying in a cold region.
Swaddling is wrapping the baby in a blanket or cloth with the hands tucked inside.
When swaddled properly, the baby will find it difficult to pull the hands out.
This helps to prevent scratching of the face. Swaddling also has the advantage of providing a warm and cozy feel to the baby. This helps the baby to sleep peacefully.
What Should You Do When Your Baby Scratches Their Face?
If the scratch is caused involuntarily, then you can wash it gently with water.
You can either apply an antiseptic cream or leave it open for the scratch to dry.
Breast milk is also considered very effective in treating small scratches on the baby’s face. The antiseptic properties in breastmilk helps reduce pain and discomfort.
If the baby scratched the face on purpose, then it is because of itching caused by dry skin.
You can apply a baby moisturizer or cream to soothe the baby. If the baby becomes cranky because of dry skin, you can consult a doctor. The doctor will examine the baby’s skin and provide medication, as needed.
Similarly, you should check the skin around the scratch for any color change. If the skin color is different from the baby’s normal skin tone, then it can be a sign of an infection.
If blood, pus or other fluid oozes out from the scratch or if it emanates a bad odor, it is also a sign that the scratch is infected. You should then consult a pediatrician immediately.
Scratches on the baby’s face can be distressing. But the good news is that these scratches are superficial. It does not leave any permanent mark or scarring on the baby’s skin.
Moreover, the scratch heals very fast as the baby grows and new cells develop. It is very common for babies to scratch their face and there is no need to be overly concerned if you spot small scratch marks on the baby’s face.