Baby Scratching Face - Reasons & Prevention Tips

Baby Scratching Face – Reasons & Prevention Tips

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Dr. Arti Sharma (Paediatrician)
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For new parents, the sight of their baby scratching his face is not a welcoming one, and can make them anxious enough to dial their baby’s paediatrician at ungodly hours. If you’re a new parent and see your baby scratching his face more often than not, no doubt you must be worried and wondering what you can do about it. We understand where you’re coming from, but should you concern yourself? Let’s find out!

It is normal for babies to scratch their face, and you need not concern yourself, as there are certain measures you can take to prevent your baby from scratching his face! But before we take you to the measures, it’s important that you understand the reasons why babies scratch their face so that you can prevent the cause itself!


Why Do Babies Scratch Their Face?

There’re a number of reasons why babies end up scratching their face. Some of them are given below:

1. Dry and Itchy Skin

Dry, itchy and flaky skin is one of the biggest reasons for babies to scratch their face. Dirt and bacteria buildup may cause acne or pimples which may trigger your baby to scratch his face. Look into your baby’s diet to prevent any skin allergies and also start establishing a good skincare routine for your little one.

2. The Startle Reflex

Babies are sensitive to light and sounds. It’s normal to feel surprised or shocked by your surroundings. Sometimes a shimmering light or a drop of noise can startle them as they’re experiencing new sensations. That’s what we refer to as the startle reflex, and when they’re startled, they flail their arms. And guess what happens when they flail their arms? They end up scratching their face. Of course, this is an involuntary response to the stimulus though.

The Startle Reflex

3. Explore Their Face

When the child is inside the womb, there’s not much room to move around or explore. When your newborn is finally out, he starts exploring his surroundings and his body parts, including his face. This means he will end up reaching out for his face, which is a natural and instinctive response. He is experiencing new sensations, and trying to get a sense of how his environment responds to the way he reacts.

4. Emotional Reasons

When a baby feels distraught or unhappy, he is more likely to swing his arms and legs in the air. As a result, he might end up scratching his face. When children feel frustrated, they scratch their face as a form of coping mechanism. You have to take note of their emotional cues and see what triggers them. Just spend more time with your baby and keep an eye on him.

Tips to Prevent Your Baby From Scratching His Face

If you see your infant scratching his face and head, don’t panic. There are a few ways by which you can prevent him from doing so.

1. Moisturize His Face

You can prevent your toddler from scratching face by taking good care of his skin. Apply a gentle moisturising lotion on his face regularly and at least twice a day. Make sure the lotion is formulated using natural ingredients and is free of parabens, sulphates and harmful chemicals because they can trigger an allergy or be toxic to a baby’s skin.

2. Trim His Nails When He Is Asleep

Trim your baby’s nails when he’s asleep. Do this once every week since a baby’s nails tend to grow fast. Trimming his nails will prevent scarring his face when he attempts to scratch it. If you’re planning to trim his nails during the daytime, get your partner to hold your baby’s hands while you’re at it. Be gentle because your little one might fidget.

3. Swaddle Your Baby

You can prevent your munchkin from flailing his arms whenever he gets startled. Simply get a swaddle fabric and wrap him in it. Swaddling your baby will keep his arms secured in place and prevent him from scratching his face. Even if he gets startled he won’t be able to scratch his face.

4. Get a Pair of Mittens for Your Baby

Making your baby wear a pair of mittens will keep him comfortable and prevent him from scratching his face. They have a nice, soft feeling and the wrapping around the arm or the sleeve, provides a decent layer of insulation, thus preventing him from feeling cold. You will find them in various colours, cute designs, and sizes.

Get a Pair of Mittens for Your Baby

When Do Babies Stop Scratching Their Face?

Babies are not in control of what they do until they are six weeks old. They learn how to move and be aware of what they’re doing once they are between 4 and 6 months of age. That’s when they usually stop scratching their face. But some babies might take a bit longer if scratching their face ends up becoming a habit.

Can the Scratches Turn Into a Scar?

Babies’ nails aren’t strong enough to break the skin barrier. Even with the constant scratching, the most they’ll get is a few light marks on their face, which fade away with time. Their nails are also not sharp enough to pierce their skin, so you don’t have to worry about bleeding (unless they are prone to acne or dirt building up on the skin).

What to Do If the Scratched Area Starts Bleeding

Give your baby a nice warm bath. And when we say warm, remember that the water should be warm, not hot. Pat dry the scratched area after the bath. You can use gentle natural eczema cream or lotion on his face. This will soothe his skin and prevent itchiness.

If you notice your baby scratching face at night and it starts bleeding, here is what you can do:

  • Comfort your baby and let him know that it’s okay. Nurse your baby or sway him gently – keep him distracted!
  • Wash your hands well before you touch your baby’s face. You don’t want to increase the risk of infections or open up the wounds. Trim your nails and wash your hands thoroughly using soap and lukewarm water before treating your baby.
  • Use a sanitized cloth or bandage and apply the right amount of pressure on the wound until it stops bleeding.
  • Wash the affected area with lukewarm water and hypoallergenic soap. You want to clear away the germs and remove the risk of bacteria buildup.
  • Let the scratched area heal with time and once it heals completely, make sure you moisturise his skin daily.

It is normal for babies to scratch their face, and you need not worry. What you can do is take preventive measures from early on. If you haven’t started using soft mittens for your baby, then now is the time to do that. When your baby sleeps in a crib, you won’t have to stand guard to keep his hands from reaching his face. Your little one is bound to scratch his face at times but you can stop him. And if you see scratches on his face, consult his paediatrician to know how you can treat it.

Furthermore, remember that this phase won’t last forever. Until then, take preventive measures and keep your little one safe!

Also Read:

Why Do Infants Keep Rubbing Their Ears
Infant Rubbing Eyes
Hair Pulling in Infants

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Aarohi Achwal holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce and a master’s degree in English Literature. While working as an intern for an English daily, she realised that she likes writing above anything else. The idea of being heard without having to speak appeals to her. She likes to write research-based articles that are informative and relevant. She has written articles on pregnancy, parenting, and relationships. And she would like to continue creating content on health and lifestyle.