When my daughter was a baby, she happily spent the majority of her waking hours buried between and beside my boobs. I'm confident that if she could have completely buried herself beneath my ample postpartum mammaries, she would have. It always baffled me — why do babies like to bury their faces? Why cocoon so far into my boobs that I needed to make sure she was breathing? Do all kids do this?
The answer is more complex than you might think. On the surface, it just seems like a strange quirk of babies. As though it might be a mistake, or just something fun for them to do. After all, to them, the world is new and interesting, and this could be one more way that they are engaging with the outside world and exploring their environment. The actual meaning behind the behavior is perhaps a bit more nebulous. A recent article in Frontiers in Psychology wrote that these types of sensory-seeking behaviors might be a comfort mechanism, a way to self-soothe when babies are feeling out of sorts, hungry, tired, or just overwhelmed. It is the literal definition of "pulling a blanket over one's head" to developing minds that are easily frustrated.
Pediatric sleep expert and chiropractic doctor Dr. Sarah Mitchell of Helping Babies Sleep tells Romper, "I have observed the phenomena of babies wanting to have their cheek up against something repeatedly. This may look like putting a little blankie on their face, or rolling onto their stomach, and rubbing their cheek into the mattress." She says that it's sensory seeking, but that it has more to do with their age than anything.
"If we think back to the newborn period, a child's cheek is naturally pressed up against another skin when breastfeeding. In this manner, babies develop a positive association with having something pressed up against their cheeks." Whether it's a mother/parent's breasts, their warm bed, or even laying in the crook of an arm, they are comforted by this feeling.
Mitchell says that this comfort mechanism only evolves and continues as the child ages. "In the early weeks of life, children develop a positive association with pressure or tactile stimuli into the skin of their cheek." And that because of this comfort that's so concrete in their minds, "this behavior lasts throughout childhood."
It's so funny to think that the way we hold and feed our baby can become such an ingrained part of their routine that they would seek out that sensation in other ways to find that same comfort. Just make sure that you don't tempt them into this behavior when they're going to bed by filling their beds with extraneous blankets, as there is a real risk of suffocation. Keep them on their back, and in a safe sleep environment so their love of covering their face doesn't become dangerous.
But it is fun to know why your baby might just want to live on your boobs — because it was starting to get odd.