Babies might be sucking or chewing on their hands from teething, exploring their body or surroundings, be hungry, seeking comfort, or developing their fine motor skills. This is a completely normal habit that most grow out by the time they turn 5 years old.
If your baby is chewing on their hand, you might be wondering what is going on. This is especially true if it’s a new habit or anything out of the ordinary.
As a parent, it is helpful to be aware of your child’s behaviors. In most cases, you do not need to worry about these new kinds of behaviors.
Babies chew on their hands often, and it’s completely normal. Still, as a parent, you want to figure out what this means.
There are a few reasons that they might be doing this. Here are some of the things that can cause your baby to chew on their hand.
If your baby is chewing on their hands, they may be teething. This cause might have been one of your first guesses. Babies putting their hands in their mouth is a symptom of teething.
Babies can start teething from 4 to 7 months. Keep in mind that all babies are different. Do not worry if your baby begins teething sooner or later. They will get their teeth at the right time.
When babies are teething, they can experience pain under their gums before any teeth breakthrough. Parents do not always realize that their baby is teething because they cannot see any teeth.
Once a tooth comes through the gums, a parent may help relieve the pain with teething rings and other home remedies.
Babies sometimes chew on their hands as they are teething as a way to soothe any pain. This is not a problem.
To help soothe the pain more effectively, try offering your baby one of these options:
- Teething rings or toys
- Infant pain reliever
- Rub baby’s gums
In the first few months of life, babies use their mouths to help them explore. A baby’s mouth is a highly-developed sensory area.
Instead of using their other senses, such as touch and sight, babies like to use their mouths.
Placing different toys or items in their mouth is just their way of getting used to the world around them.
As babies get older, they put more and more things in their mouths. This is one reason baby-proofing is essential.
Your baby should be free to explore by putting things in their mouth. Just make sure that they are only putting safe and clean items in their mouth.
By providing your baby with plenty of items to put in their mouth, you can continue to feed their curiosity.
If your baby is hungry, they are going to make sure you know it. In most cases, if a baby is sucking on their hands, it does not mean they are hungry.
Usually, babies will cry or smack their lips when they get hungry. Parents can typically tell when their babies need to eat.
Some babies will suck on their hands to signal that they are hungry. It is something to be aware of if you cannot figure out why your baby is sucking on their hands.
Note that you can create a habit if your baby always gets to nurse or take a bottle when they suck on their hands.
For this reason, and for other reasons, you can consider placing your baby on a feeding schedule. Schedules can help prevent your baby from associating hand-sucking with eating.
Just like thumb-sucking, hand-chewing can be a way for young children to comfort themselves.
You might notice your baby chewing on their hands as they try to fall asleep or when they are upset. This is similar to a child using a pacifier too.
5. Fine Motor Skill Development
As babies grow, they need to learn all kinds of things. One of those is their fine motor skills.
They are not born with those skills, and babies sometimes have to use these developing skills to learn how to chew on their hands.
They have to be strong enough to hold their hand in one place. By letting your baby chew on their hands, you are helping them develop these skills.
Should You See a Doctor for Baby Chewing on Their Hands?
If your baby is chewing on their hands, you do not necessarily need to see a doctor. If you cannot pinpoint what is causing them to chew their hands, it can be a good idea.
You could ask at your baby’s next well visit to see if your baby’s doctor has any concerns.
In most cases, you will not need to take any action. It can give you some peace of mind that your baby is chewing their hands for comfort, teething, or another unharmful reason.
Should You Let Your Baby Chew on Their Hands?
There is no reason not to let your baby chew on their hands. They likely have a very good reason to have their hands in their mouth.
Keep an eye out for any signs of teething so you can respond appropriately with pain relief.
If you often see your baby sucking on their hands, make sure that they are not hungry. When you notice other teething signs, you can offer a teething ring or another teething remedy to help your little one feel more comfortable.
If all of your baby’s needs are being met, let them eat their hands as they please.
To keep your baby healthy, you can wash their hands often, especially in cold and flu season.
Using washcloths, warm water, and gentle soap to wash their hands is best. If you’re out and about, you can also use baby wipes to wash the baby’s hands.
What Should I Do If My Baby is Hurting Themselves?
Sometimes, babies can hurt themselves by chewing on their hands. This is not too common, but it is something to be aware of and look out for.
As your baby chews on their hands, they may cause some irritation.
1. Offer a Toy
When this happens, you can offer them a toy. Hopefully, they will chew on the toy instead of their hands. Even offering a toy can help to give their hands a break.
2. Utilize the Infamous Mittens
You can put teething mittens on your baby’s hands to stop them from chewing directly on the skin.
Because the mittens are on the baby’s hands, they have no choice but to chew on those instead of their hands.
3. Make the Habit Undesirable
You can also work on breaking the habit. You can put a few drops of lemon juice or vinegar on their hands to stop them from sucking on their hands.
This trick is not harmful, but it should deter your baby from this little habit. Playing a game with your baby can also help.
Maybe offer them a toy to hold onto that instead of chewing on their hands. Distracting your baby is an excellent way to keep their hands out of their mouth.
When Will My Baby Stop Sucking on Their Hands?
In most cases, babies will stop sucking or chewing on their hands once they are done teething. As babies get older, they can begin to explore in other ways too. If your baby does not stop putting their hands in their mouth, do not panic.
Most habits like these go away around the age of five. Typically, by the time your child goes to preschool or kindergarten, they will need to stop.
What Could Trigger This Habit?
It is a good idea to look at when your child is sucking on their hands. There may be certain things that are triggering this behavior.
For example, your child might suck on their hands as they are going to sleep at night. They may need another way to calm down and relax at bedtime.
Another reason your child might chew on their hands at that age is that they are nervous or anxious. Find helpful ways to ease their worries. Talk to them about their concerns or teach them breathing exercises.
In some children, this can simply be a bad habit. In that case, treat it like any other bad habit. Use alternatives, distract them, or try a reward system.
How Does Chewing on Hands Affect Teeth?
If your baby is sucking their thumb or chewing on their hands, dental troubles might be in their future.
The growth of the mouth and alignment of the permanent teeth can be affected. Typically, the permanent teeth will erupt between the ages of two and four.
At that point, you might talk to your child’s doctor or dentist to see what they suggest.