If your baby is grabbing your face constantly, know that it’s part of their normal development — infants try to learn as much as they can from their environment and their caregivers. This usually starts at 6 to 7 months old and will go away on its own.
Babies can be brutally cute. They love grabbing and scratching your face, with some even going so far as to try to gobble it all up! It can be fun to play along, but sometimes they can end up literally – but unintentionally – hurting us. Is this normal?
It’s most likely normal!
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children develop in different ways by attaining certain milestones based on overall body movement (gross motor), small and fine movements of the hands (fine motor), language, and social or cognitive development.
Most infants can reach out and grasp objects by the time they turn 6 to 7 months old. When they turn 10 to 12 months old, their grasp becomes more refined as they learn to use their thumb and index finger to hold objects.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), their target is sometimes people’s faces and not objects around them.
This behavior will probably stay on in their first few years but should stop as they learn how to communicate better.
It’s how they discover the world
How could grabbing mom’s or dad’s face help babies learn?
Touch is one of the first senses to develop in babies — this happens even before they are born! It provides them information about people and the environment around them.
Touching, scratching, and grabbing objects within reach are ways for infants to learn more about their world. The textures and temperatures they feel are different for each object (or person) they encounter — this helps them slowly understand and differentiate who their caregivers are and what objects are in their surroundings.
The downside to this is that caregivers need to be more watchful of them. Playful infants will place anything they can grab inside their mouths.
While a pacifier may be fine, a button battery is a definite no-no. It’s important to make sure that the area around a baby is safe and free of dangerous objects.
They’re trying to connect with you
Babies are not yet developed enough to understand language and express their wants. Touching, grabbing, and placing things in their mouth are also ways for them to communicate to us.
Infants sometimes want our attention, whether it’s through charming eye contact or playful nipping, as they explore and play around. Sometimes they add some funny noises such as cooing and babbling as they go along.
These gestures are also ways to comfort themselves, knowing that someone familiar is always there to respond.
They are learning more about their bodies
Infants go through a lot of growth and development at their stage in life. Grabbing objects is one way they learn how to control their bodies.
The act of touching your face while laughing or cooing, or babbling is also an example of how they learn to coordinate different parts of their bodies.
Although teething may happen at this stage as well, it is more often than not simply present by chance. Infants may become slightly aggressive because of the pain or discomfort in their gums. Sometimes, they end up eating their hands as well.
What you can do about it
Lessen the damage
You can decrease the chances of earning another scar from your daily battles with your baby through the following tips:
Put some mittens on your infant’s hands. In this way, you end up with a small, uncomfortable thump instead of a sharp scratch in the face.
Use a swaddle when you can. If your baby isn’t too active yet to play (because they do need their play time), you can place their arms in a swaddle.
Trim your baby’s fingernails. Remove the sharp blades by carefully trimming them. Cutting a baby’s nails might make you feel worried about cutting their finger instead, so check this website on how to trim them safely.
If you’ve got enough energy, you can even try dodging your baby’s attacks. Turn it into play time of sorts so both of you can still bond together.
Don’t show your frustration
Although babies may not understand your words, they may be able to feel your disposition. Stay calm when you get hurt, and try to water down your emotional response by speaking out to them instead of responding back physically.
You can always say, “Please don’t do that” or “Baby, no.” Eventually, your child will understand.
Point them somewhere else
Instead of evading their touch, try rechanneling their direction to another part of your face or body that you’re more comfortable with. Some parents opt instead to place a small toy in their baby’s hands.
I don’t see my baby touching or grabbing my face. Is that normal?
At around 6 to 7 months old, a child starts to reach objects in an attempt to grab them. It’s alright if your child doesn’t grab your face, as long as you see them grabbing other objects around them. If you feel that your child is late in their developmental milestones, please see your pediatrician for further evaluation.
It’s normal for infants to reach out and grab objects by 6 months of age or even earlier.
It’s part of how they learn about their environment and the people who care for them. Your child may unknowingly hurt you when they try to grab your face — there are different ways to avoid this from happening.
Don’t worry — by one year of age, infants learn how to release objects from their grip. Hopefully, by then, they won’t pinch you as much or as long as they used to!