This Is Why Your Baby's Rubbing Their Eyes

by Shannon Evans

There is nothing cuter than your baby's tiny chubby fist reaching for her face; it might even bring back acute memories of seeing her do it for the first time during your prenatal ultrasound. Since newborn reflexes are erratic, her spontaneous movements may seem to mean nothing at all. But as she grows and her fisted flailing becomes full-fledged eye rubbing, should you be concerned? Many parents fear infections when they start wondering, "why is my baby rubbing their eyes?" but the odds of that may be less than you think.

Pediatrician Dr. Preeti Puranik tells Romper there are many reasons for an infant to rub his or her eyes. According to Puranik, newborns have narrow nasolacrimal ducts in their eyes, which causes blockage, so it is common for them to rub their eyes as a response. So common, in fact, that if you hang out with a group of new moms long enough, you're likely to hear someone bring up the topic of clogged tear ducts. A popular home remedy for blocked tear ducts is ocular massage, according to Parenting, and if you are breastfeeding, many moms and pediatricians both swear by applying breast milk to the affected eye a few times a day.

Other possible explanations Puranik offers are common allergies and a good old fashioned self-discovery of body parts. In these cases, there isn't much a parent can do to stop the rubbing. Of course, many babies rub their eyes when they're beginning to feel drowsy, Parenting noted, so if you catch on to the cues fast enough, you might just find that nap times get a little easier.

Although it's safe to say these are the most common reasons for infant eye-rubbing, Puranik says it's still important to point out the possibility of infection or viruses existing. If your baby seems irritated with his eyes while running a fever, it is worth giving his pediatrician a call or visit to discuss. But the vast majority of the time, it's perfectly fine to let those chubby fists just do their thing.