Why Does My Baby Grab My Face?

Why Does My Baby Grab My Face?

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If your baby grabs your face sometimes, you are not alone. Babies will often grab their parent’s or caregivers’ faces for a variety of different reasons. 

Before they learn to speak, babies can only communicate through their cries and coos, their facial expressions, and touch. Your baby touching your face is often just them trying to communicate with you or express themselves. 

Research has found that babies learn through touch, especially when they are small and have not started to babble yet.

The touch and feel books aimed at babies show that it is important to promote and encourage your child’s sense of touch from an early age. When your baby is grabbing your face they are often just exploring and learning with their sense of touch.

If you have ever wondered why does my baby grab my face, we have delved into all the different reasons here. Understanding why your baby is grabbing your face will help you know how best to respond when they do. 

Reasons Your Baby Grabs Your Face 

There are many reasons why your baby is touching and grabbing your face. Here is a list of some of the most common reasons why this is happening:

1. They want your attention

It is pretty hard to ignore a chubby little hand grabbing your face, right? Babies will learn pretty quickly that if they grab your face they will get your attention. Babies can’t talk and although crying is their main form of communication, they will sometimes use touch too.

Young babies may touch your face when you are holding them close or they are in a sling. At this age, your baby is more likely just exploring rather than intentionally trying to get your undivided attention.

Between the ages of approximately eight and eighteen months, your baby will be purposefully grabbing your face because they want you to look and interact with them.

Babies love eye contact and building a connection with the people who care for them and they will sometimes grab your face to get you to look into their eyes. 

2. They are frustrated or angry

Babies get angry and frustrated too. Maybe your baby has been crying for a while and you don’t know what is wrong, they can’t verbally communicate their needs with you yet so they grab your face out of frustration.

Anger is often easy to stop in babies, they will kick their legs and bunch up their fists and often wave their arms around and sometimes grab your face too.

If your baby is behaving in this way soothe and comfort them and try to work out what has made them so angry so you can fix the problem. 

3. They are exploring their sense of touch

Babies do not always grab faces because they want to communicate or interact. Children learn a lot through exploring different textures and when your baby touches your face they are just learning how different things in the world around them feel.

Your baby may enjoys touching the smooth skin of your face and maybe not be so keen on your husband’s stubble or beard. 

4. They are hungry

It won’t take long for your baby to notice that everyone around them is eating using their mouths.

Sometimes, if you don’t pick up on your baby’s usual hunger cues (crying, sucking their hands, etc) then they may start grabbing at your face, specifically touching your mouth.

It is hard not being able to talk and grabbing at your mouth could just be your baby trying their best to let you know that they want some food. 

5. They want you to see something

As your baby grows they will start playing with toys and exploring their surroundings. If your baby has discovered something exciting or has built something with their toys, they may grab your face to encourage you to come and see what they have done.

Once your baby is talking or able to communicate through signs (or can just grab your hand and drag you to where they want to go!) they will most likely stop grabbing your face as much when they want you to see something. 

6. They are scared

Human touch can be extremely reassuring and comforting for babies. Think of all those times your little one has slept soundly in your arms for hours, only to wake as soon as you put them down and they can no longer feel your presence.

If something frightens your baby, their initial reaction may be to grab your face. This may just be a jerk reaction but could also be them looking for reassurance and safety.

7. They are trying to build bonds

Babies love eye contact and interaction and they work out pretty quickly that grabbing your face is an easy way to get both. Looking into your baby’s eye, smiling, and talking to them up close are all really effective ways of strengthening your bond.

Your baby knows they will get your undivided attention if they grab your face and you can use this cue from your baby to talk and smile at them, showing them that you love them. 

Related Article: Why Does My Baby Headbutt?

Why Does My Baby Grab My Face While Nursing?

As you can see, there are many different reasons why your baby might be grabbing your face. Breastfeeding moms may sometimes wonder, why does my baby grab my face while nursing?

If you think about it, your baby has really easy access to your face while you are breastfeeding them!

Your baby may grab your face while nursing because they want you to look down at them and pay them some attention.

Tiny newborns may only have milk on their minds while they are nursing but as your baby grows they will start becoming more curious about the world around them and may grab your face to get your attention and some interaction. 

Cropped view of man touching hand of surprised baby boy

Often your baby is simply just exploring their sense of touch while they are also breastfeeding. However, if your baby is painfully grabbing your face or you are finding their constant touching irritating, you can offer them a small toy to hold while they are nursing.

Another option is to wear a necklace, there are necklaces you can buy that have been specifically designed to keep nursing baby’s wandering hands busy and away from their moms face during feeds. 

Face grabbing is normal behavior during nursing and is not something you need to be concerned about. If it becomes problematic you can always seek advice from a feeding specialist or pediatrician. 

Why Does My Baby Grab My Face When Falling Asleep?

Your baby loves you, no one can comfort them and make them feel as safe as you. When your baby is drifting off to sleep they may grab your face for reassurance and comfort.

They may use the feel of your skin on the skin of their hand as a way to feel soothed and content. Some babies like having a comfort blanket or a pacifier at bedtime, others like to touch their mommy or daddy’s face as they drift off to sleep. 

Another reason why your baby may be grabbing your face in their sleep is that they are dreaming about you. Dreams help babies’ brains to process all the new information and skills they are learning and they may reach for your face in their sleep because they are doing so in their dreams. 

Why Does My Baby Scratch My Face?

Sometimes face grabbing turns into face scratching or pinching. A sweet touch to the cheek can be lovely, your baby trying to pull your nose off or scratching your chin with their tiny dagger nails?

That’s not so lovely and can be painful and upsetting for parents. If you ever wondered why your baby scratches your face, there are some reasons why this is happening but it is important to remember this is common and a phase that will pass.

As was mentioned earlier, your baby uses touch to communicate and they may be pinching and scratching because they are frustrated and angry and don’t know how else to tell you that something is wrong.

However, if you have a newborn baby that is scratching your face, this is often just an involuntary reflex. Young babies do not have much coordination and often also have sharp little nails.

If your face gets in the way of your baby’s hand flying around, they could easily scratch you by mistake. 

Loud noises can trigger a startle reflex in your baby, causing them to ‘jump’ and their arms to quickly move. Your baby may accidentally scratch your face when this reflex is triggered, they are not trying to intentionally hurt you. 

However, babies love attention and getting a reaction from their caregivers. There is no denying that if your baby scratches your face that you are going to react. Whether you jump or yelp or gently say no, your baby will learn that scratching gets a reaction from you.

It is best to try and ignore the behavior, not make a big fuss, and distract your baby with something else.

If your baby is scratching your face to get your attention, they will soon move on to something else when they learn scratching will not lead to your undivided attention and interaction with you. 

FAQs

Why do babies claw at your face?

This is normal behavior as newborns have very little control over their hands. This means that they can often scratch your face unintentionally.

baby holding mother's hands

Why does my baby grab and pinch my face?

For babies, biting, pinching and hair-pulling help them to work out cause and effect. This usually occurs around 6-12 months. It is just a way for them to explore and get to know the world they are living in.

The Final Thought 

There are many reasons why your baby might be grabbing your face. Face grabbing, pinching, and scratching are all really common behaviors and, although they can be irritating, are often not a reason to worry.

Babies are constantly learning and using touch as a means of communication is completely normal. In most cases, your baby just wants your full attention and is enjoying exploring the different textures of your face.

Enjoy the eye contact and bonding and there is nothing wrong with putting your baby down for a moment if they are hurting you while grabbing your face. If painful face grabbing is happening regularly and your baby is hurting you, you can speak to a pediatrician for professional advice. 

Babies are strange little creatures and they do many things that nobody told you about before becoming a parent, check out some of those things here.

Hi, I'm Emma and I'm a mother to 5 beautiful children aged from 1 to 21 years old- life is hectic! I have learned so much along the way, not only from my own children but also through my professional life. In my positions as a Childminder and Teaching Assistant, I have studied Child Development and The Early Years Developing Practice. I wish to share all of this knowledge and help you with your own parenting journey!

Hi, I'm Emma and I'm a mother to 5 beautiful children aged from 1 to 21 years old- life is hectic! I have learned so much along the way, not only from my own children but also through my professional life. In my positions as a Childminder and Teaching Assistant, I have studied Child Development and The Early Years Developing Practice. I wish to share all of this knowledge and help you with your own parenting journey!