Leaving babies on their own can be daunting, as they can literally turn the whole world upside down in a matter of minutes. One of these incidents happened when my baby started eating paper, back in the month. It baffled me how he got into this habit and why? When I first saw my baby eating paper, I didn’t bother much, for he liked exploring things with his mouth, and that’s what I thought it was, just an exploration. But this little cute exploration turned into a routine and had me in denial. Apart from pushing the paper out of his grip, I did not know how else to make this little addiction go away. So here’s what I found as to why my baby is eating paper and what consequences it could have on him in the long run? I hope this helps you get to the root cause and deal with it accordingly.
Babies eating dirt, paper, and other non-food things can have serious behavioral concerns. Sometimes this habit can be just a phase, which is why understanding your baby’s developmental stage can help you understand this behavior more clearly. So, stay informed as to what to expect from your baby’s developmental phase. One of these developmental phases could be that your baby has just learned to crawl around and loves exploring everything by putting it into his mouth. They could be eating paper to explore and find out more about it. Also, teething babies love to chew on things to ease the pain, so this could be the result of one of those phases. But sometimes, this condition can be more serious, like pica disorder, where babies and toddlers tend to feed on paper, sand, and other such materials. This disorder can be found in adults as well, but mostly it’s associated with kids and babies still developing. Almost 10-30% of the babies and children of ages 1-6 suffer from this disorder. Babies can develop pica due to nutritional deficiencies as they could be trying to meet those deficiencies by eating paper. Make sure to check with your pediatrician and run tests to confirm the cause. As babies develop rapidly, they need food or breast milk every few hours to fulfill their energy requirements. If not given proper nutrition, they will eat anything in sight and not just paper. Make sure that you are feeding your baby nutritional meals to prevent them from eating paper and other such materials.
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Consider your baby’s developmental stage
Before starting to panic and arriving at conclusions, consider the developmental stage and age of your baby. Most of the babies act according to their developmental phases. Knowing your baby’s age can help you narrow down the possibilities of his behavior. Every stage brings its changes and patterns, and by using a developmental stage chart, you can easily understand why your baby is eating paper. For instance:
- Babies around the age of 6-10 months are developing the ability to crawl. Exploring things around the house that they have always been fascinated by can take a lot of their energy. Feeding them more often can help you prevent your baby from snacking on paper.
- Teething is one of the major reasons behind your baby putting everything in his mouth, be it paper or anything else. In this case, you can help him soothe his discomfort by giving him chilled fruits and rubbing ice on his gums. You can also breastfeed to ease your baby’s teething phase, which is also a good opportunity to teach him not to bite.
Most of the time, our babies are just too high on energy and want to explore as much as they can through their mouths. This can also be a great opportunity for you to teach him what to eat and put in his mouth and whatnot.
Pica disorder could be the cause
One of the most common reasons for babies to eat paper and other such items could be pica disorder. Pica disorder refers to the regular consumption of anything aside from food or drink. Babies with pica disorder may eat not just paper but…
- Coffee grounds
- Cigarette ashes
- Animal feces
To confirm that your baby has pica disorder, you must watch him closely for at least a month. If he repeatedly eats any of the above-mentioned things, then it means that your baby is suffering from pica disorder. Some kids can also suffer from other conditions like:
- Intellectual disability
- Developmental disability
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder
Symptoms of pica
You will know that your baby is suffering from pica disorder if he is:
- Suffering from Malnutrition
- Suffers from intestinal blockage or internal injury
- Caught infection from bacteria, parasites, or other microbes found in dirt
If your baby is consuming materials like paint chips, he may suffer from poisoning or brain damage, as it contains lead and other toxins. So, make sure to contact your pediatrician if you find symptoms of pica in your baby. Look for the following signs to confirm that your child needs medical attention:
- Your baby continues to eat non-food materials, even after restricting the access.
- Your baby has been consuming these materials for more than a month.
- Your toddler’s behavior is not age-appropriate.
How to know if your baby is diagnosed with pica
To confirm that your baby has pica disorder, your pediatrician will examine the baby physically and run some blood tests. These blood tests will help your pediatrician determine if your baby has anemia, other nutritional deficiencies, or any toxins like lead.
Talk to your doctor regarding appropriate and inappropriate foods and how to restrict your baby from accessing cabinets using childproof locks. Dealing with this disorder now will help you prevent future complications. So, deal with this issue as soon as possible instead of waiting it out.
Your baby might be hungry
Growing babies require feedings every 2 hours or sooner because they’re constantly growing and need tons of energy. This rapid development requires a constant source of energy, which your baby gets from breastfeed mostly.
Our brain uses 20% of our total body energy, and for babies, the percentage is even higher. Constant exploration, learning, and absorbing the information requires a lot of energy and work from our little angels. You must ensure that your baby gets all the energy from his feedings and meals to conduct day to day activities. Be conscious of what your baby is consuming during his exploration journey.
Most babies tend to eat paper when they do not get the nutrition they need from the feedings. Babies lack self-control and are unable to differentiate between food and non-food items. So, they may feel the urge to eat anything that they find in their sight. Ensure that you change your baby’s eating schedule and feed him more often to avoid such an unpleasant experience.
Your baby is teething
Teething is rather a sensitive time for your baby and needs more of your attention and love. This can also be the reason your baby has started eating paper. Try giving the baby teething toys, chilled fruits, and have him breastfeed to see if it solves the problem.
Avoid dipping teething toys in sugar as they can lead to cavities, which in turn may cause your baby to eat paper even more. Breastfeeding can also help your baby soothe the pain he’s experiencing from teething.
Effects of paper smell on your baby
Some babies may grow fonder of the smell of the paper and start eating it in turn. Paper consumption is not safe for your baby, as it might lead to diarrhea and other complications.
Make sure to tend to your baby’s hunger and watch for the cues. Frequent feedings also help your baby develop good food habits and a healthy relationship with food.
Behavioral problems from consuming paper
Babies are simple, and they are happy when they are full and cranky when they are hungry or lack the energy to move around. To avoid your baby’s difficult behavior, make sure that he is well-fed and loved. As the paper won’t fulfill your baby’s hunger, he is likely to get irritated and refuse to feed.
Keep your baby well-fed to stop him from eating non-food items regularly. Try to restrict your baby’s access to paper and keep feeding him nutritious food to fulfill his energy requirements. Having a healthy eating routine keeps your baby content, happy, secure, and less irritable.
I hope this article answers your queries and help you understand your baby’s behavior better. Let me know in the comments if you have any more queries.
Hajira is a certified editor, an experienced and thoughtful writer, and a mother of two. Her deliberate passion for writing convinced her to become a writer along with her mom duties. Driven by her passion for writing, she takes pride in providing the best possible. She aims to incite and provoke enthusiasm in her readers.