All new moms and dads know that babies are precious little love grenades who exist to explode parents' hearts on a daily basis. And all new parents also know that babies are drooly little aliens from another planet who do a lot of incredibly weird and unexpected nonsense. For instance: why do babies claw and grab at their own faces until they look like they are the reigning champions of an underground infant Fight Club?
Judging by the amount of adorable, teeny infant mittens available for purchase, it's safe to assume this a relatively common thing, and that many bebes consider Freddy Kruegering their own faces to be a favorite baby past-time.
Why exactly do babies do this? Well, a variety of reasons. As we know, most newborns don't exactly slide out ready to conduct the New York Philharmonic. They are uncoordinated and all over the place, and sometimes face-grabbing is simply the result of floppy, octopus baby arms.
Another reason could be that they're pooped, and they are signaling to you to stop waving that giraffe teether in their faces and put them in their crib already, for the love of god. Parenting.com confirms that it's very common for babies to rub at their eyes when sleepy or itchy. (I have to say babies, it's a bit of a cliché move... rubbing the eyes to indicate fatigue. A bit Improv 101, but fine. OK.)
As for itchiness, that might be worth investigating further. It might be time to slather on more moisturizer, or to adjust the temperature of the nursery so the little one feels more comfortable.
But what about when they actually scratch themselves with those razory baby talons? Is this something to be concerned about? Romper reached out to Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg about the old face grab. Dr. Jen (as her patients call her) is a nationally renowned parenting expert and board-certified pediatrician. And Dr. Jen says to chill. Face-grabbing is just another weird part of babydom. "It's nothing to worry about. Babies flail their arms, still have uncoordinated movements and little control of their hands, so they can end up scratching their face."
But! - I can hear panicked parents gasping - How do we stop it? The photographer is coming tomorrow and we plan to dress Marlowe in a knit cap with over-sized fox ears! How to keep our child from looking like a mauled scavenger???
Per Dr. Jen: "My advice is to make sure to keep nail short and neat. You can file with a nail file so no sharp edges. Also, I recommend swaddling baby with arms inside the blanket. This too will decrease the hands from rubbing or scratching face as well as help keep baby calm and comfortable."
Pretty sound and simple suggestions, no? And if anyone would like further Dr. Jen wisdom, she also has a video guide called "Pediatrician In Your Pocket," which offers "All the information parents need while on the go - from A to Pee." (What I'd give for an actual pediatrician in my pocket! That I could feed little bits of carrot, and then ask for the correct dosage of Children's Benadryl... How amazing would that be? So much easier than googling pictures of rashes and gagging at the results.)
Anyway, don't sweat the face clawing, Mom. Just keep the nails short, swaddle 'em up, or invest in some infant mittens. Though, I feel I would be remiss if I did not point out to parents that they might already have "infant mittens" in their home and not realize it. They are called "infant socks," and work just as well.