Baby Putting Hands in Mouth – Causes and Tips to Deal

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A baby sucking its finger

Many children have the tendency to stuff their thumb in their mouth and keep sucking on it for the longest time. And if you were to pull it away, they will give you the angriest look they can, and try to forcibly put it again, or lash out by crying incessantly.

Why does your Baby Keep Putting its Fingers in the Mouth?

 A baby sucking its finger

  • Most of the times sucking on their fingers is a way babies handle a lot of stimulation. In certain settings or environments, there can be a lot of things going on around them. These could be different people, a lot of sounds, and all of these can get quite overwhelming. The feeling of sucking on something brings back the baby into a safe zone, which is why they usually tend to put their fingers in the mouth. This is usually accompanied by yawning or moving their head from one side to the other.
  • Another popular reason why babies suck on their fingers is the most obvious one. They are hungry. Not all babies cry when they are hungry. They do not understand that only the breast holds milk, and think that suckling will get the milk. So they try sucking on their fingers to do so. At times, this is also a way of communicating to the mother that they are hungry. During growth spurts, even after feeding, the tendency to suckle might remain and that would be satisfied by using their fingers.
  • As opposed to handling a lot of stimulation, sucking on the fingers might be the last resort that a baby has to keep himself engaged because he is bored. It might be afternoon and everyone might be sleeping, while the baby is all awake and ready to interact. At other times, your child might be silently observing what you’re doing or trying to play with any hanging toys. This is usually accompanied by sucking on the fingers because that’s the quickest thing they can get their hands on, quite literally.
  • If the baby feels any discomfort, such as the mother being in a different room, or if they are struggling to pass a fart or have peed themselves, not all babies start crying. Your child might be one of those who attempts to soothe himself before things get out of hand. This is where you might notice his face to be concentrating on the sucking of his thumb with utmost focus.
  • Your baby might need to feel safe and secure while he is trying to fall asleep. Sometimes, a baby is so tired that he has difficulty falling asleep. Many babies tend to sleep while feeding and develop the habit of having a nipple in their mouth when they do so. Your child could use fingers instead to put himself to sleep and not respond to any voices or calls made to him.
  • As your baby gets older, the process of teething begins. This causes a slight pain in the gums as the teeth make their way up the roots. There still might be quite some months before the first tooth actually emerges out of the gums, but the process starts making itself felt to the baby. This can cause his gums to irritate, a lot of drooling to happen, and the baby might feel like chewing, just to keep some pressure on the gums, since it relieves the pain. Putting a bunch of fingers in the mouth and pressing on them is the quickest way to handle the issue and that’s pretty much what your baby opts for.

How can you Stop the Baby from Putting its Hand/Fingers in the Mouth?

  • First things first. Get the most obvious one out of the way. If your baby is sucking on his finger, he might be hungry, especially if he is in the growth spurt phase. Breastfeed him right away if possible, or use bottled breastmilk or formula, if your breasts need some rest. This could be a good sign for you to know that he ought to spend more time on your breast than usual or need more formula-based feeding than before. Do keep your doctor in the loop about his progress.
  • If your baby has his entire fist in his mouth and he is busy gobbling away at it, you can entice him to remove the hand by giving him a toy. The presence of the toy could make him want to grab it, which would get his hand out of the mouth. There are good chances he will stuff the toy in the mouth instead so opt for a soft toy or something that is clean and chewable. Some smart babies can keep sucking and use the other hand to grab the toy.
  • This might seem unorthodox advice but it is best to let the baby be by himself. Enjoy the calm time that you have, as short-lived as it might be. If your baby can calm down himself, that is actually a good sign for his development process as he is gradually getting independent. Do check if his diaper is not wet or he is not undergoing any discomfort though.
  • Teething sensations can get quite irritating for your little one. A quick way to get some relief is by using a teething ring that has been made cold. The low temperature can alleviate quite a lot of the teething sensation that the baby feels and he can chow down on the ring without worry. If your baby resists the cold temperature, do not force it onto him. Give him the ring as is.
  • Many babies tend to want to suckle even when their stomach is full. In such cases, to break away the habit of using his fingers, you can opt for a pacifier and give it to him after each feed. There might be the possibility where your baby simply chucks the pacifier aside and continues with his hand.
  • Engage with the little one. Talk to him, sing to him, or play with his favourite toy. With a little bit of stimulation, he can be distracted from sucking in his fingers constantly and also help in his continued development.

The reasons babies put their hands in their mouth vary from the most obvious ones to utterly clueless aspects. Sucking on his hands is also a way of getting to know his own palms better. By keeping a note of when such things occur, and regularly opting for various ways to stop doing that, your child will either learn to distract himself in different ways or let go of the habit completely.

Also Read: HFMD in Babies