Babies suck on their hands or try to eat their hands for many reasons. Whatever the reason is, you can talk to your baby’s pediatrician about it, but normally babies eating their hands are just a phase, and they will slowly move on when they’re about 18 months to 3 years old. This is a time when you can easily break the habit of eating/sucking their hands or fingers.
Understanding babies and why they do things they normally do is a huge mystery for first-time parents. It’s also quite common to get worried or anxious about certain behavior of your baby that you never heard of before or seen in other babies.
The truth is, most of the time, we, as parents tend to overthink and get worried about our babies for silly reasons.
Having said that, I’d also like to add that this doesn’t mean you should ignore anything that doesn’t seem right to you. Always consult your baby’s pediatrician about any doubts or worries you have.
Why babies suck their hands?
Before we jump on how to stop your child from eating their hands, let’s first focus on why they’re doing it.
Is the baby hungry?
Newborn babies or even babies who are 7 months old would start sucking on their hands or fingers when they tend to get hungry.
My son, Jonathan, when he was 10 months old, would start sucking his wrist every time he gets very hungry. This habit is not something he would do all day, but only when he gets extremely hungry.
So, if your baby tends to suck her fingers or hands, then try offering her milk or food if she’s 6 months or older. After having their milk or food, if they stop sucking their hands, hunger was probably the cause.
Is your baby teething?
Other than hunger, teething is also the main reason why babies suck their hands. When those pearly whites are about to make their debut, it’s normal for babies to feel irritation and pain in their gums.
During these times, you’ll see that your baby is sucking her hand or fingers hard along with a ton of drooling (keep a burp cloth always handy- it’s going to be a mess). They’ll also be fussy and crying a lot if they’re teething.
So, if your baby is teething, then rubbing something against their gum probably soothes them. Offer them teething rings, toys, or teething food if they’re older than 6 months.
Some teething toys are filled with water and can be refrigerated before offering, but make a note not to offer those water-filled teething toys after 1 or 2 teeth have erupted as they can puncture the toy and water can leak out of it.
Your baby might just be relaxing
Babies learn to suck their hands as early as 7 weeks. Sucking their hands is one of the ways they tend to self-soothe themselves. So, babies tend to suck their hands if they’re around strangers or if your baby is separated from you.
At these times, don’t try to stop your baby from sucking her hand. She might be feeling anxious or worried, and sucking her hand is a way of self-soothing herself.
Is your baby bored?
Another common reason why babies suck their hands is when they’re bored. I mean, who can blame them? They’re small creatures with nothing else to do except sleep, eat, poop, and repeat. So, boredom can be the reason why she’s sucking her hands as a way of entertaining herself.
So, if you place your baby in a cot or a playpen with toys, you’ll find her sucking her thumb or her hand after some time after getting bored. When they’ve nothing to occupy themselves for a prolonged time, they will resort to sucking their hands if it has become a habit.
Also, newborn babies at the age of 2-3 months are exploring themselves and their surroundings, so don’t be surprised when you find your baby is exploring her hands for a while and suddenly eating them.
This is just the way babies are learning about their hands, their feel, and I guess how they taste! Consider it a part of their brain development where she’s busy learning and discovering herself in this world.
If your newborn has started exploring and putting things in her mouth, then it’s high time to childproof your house and keep anything that’s even a little bit dangerous for children out of reach from your baby because soon she’ll start crawling or wriggle to get an object that’s kept near her.
You can also offer her pacifiers if she tends to eat her hand excessively. Try to distract your baby with songs, music, color, or books with white and black pages (babies love ‘em).
So, Mama, stop worrying. Sucking on hands or fingers is usually just a part of your child’s development and will phase out soon.
If they’re sucking their hands due to teething or hunger, then address those cues, and childproof your home and keep any toxic things out of your child’s reach.
If your baby tends to suck her hands or fingers past the age of 3 or 4 years, then consult a pediatrician.
Located in India and a mother to a joyfully mischievous son, Kelin is the wife of the world’s most patient man and a busy homemaker. When she’s not busy cooking and running after her kid, you can find her in a corner reading, or penning down words on her laptop. She believes the world will always try to instil ‘mom guilt’ in new mothers, but she goes by the maxim ‘a mother knows best’.