Infants, as cute as they may be, can be awfully hard to figure out at times. From constant hiccups, flailing limbs, and a slew of other weird behaviors that you can never figure out, babies can be a complete question mark. As your baby grows, you might find yourself asking things like, "why does my baby only sleep when I need them up? How can my little one possibly grow if they keep spitting up everything I feed them? Why is my baby eating their hands?"
That last one can be a drooling mess, so what's happening? As Parents noted, babies chewing on their hands often gets mistaken as a symptom of teething. Typically, babies don't show signs of teething until about 4 to 7 months, and usually cut their first tooth around 6 months. But, you might see your little one chewing on their hands much before that.
According to Kelly Mom, newborns may suck on their hands as an early cue to signal they are hungry. Other hunger cues at this age could include smacking or licking their lips and rooting. As your baby gets hungrier, hunger cues may progress to flailing their limbs, fussing, and crying.
But it's not all about food. As noted by the website for Dr. Sears, when babies develop past the newborn stage, they use both their hands and their mouth to discover, learn, and explore. Soon, they'll begin to purposefully reach towards objects and learn to suck on their fingers and toys as a way of discovering.
The Washington Post noted that the reason why babies discover and explore with their mouths is similar to how adults use their hands to explore. Adult fingers' have more sensory nerves and brain space than any other place on their bodies, whereas the same goes for babies' mouths. When babies suck on things or stick objects in their mouths, it's not just to chew — exploring objects with their mouths and tongues helps them learn about their world.
Mouthing, sucking, and chewing are all ways that babies communicate their needs and current states of development. Whether it's due to hunger, teething, or exploring, babies' tiny mouths are doing big (messy) work.