Why Do Babies Chew on Their Hands? Unraveling the Mystery

why do babies chew on their hands

Almost every parent has seen their little one eagerly place their hands in their mouth and start chewing away. While this behavior can seem unusual and even concerning, it is actually a common and natural occurrence in babies. But what exactly is the reason behind this curious activity?

In this article, we will explore the different causes and benefits of babies chewing on their hands, as well as provide tips and strategies to support healthy chewing habits.

Key Takeaways:

  • Babies chewing on their hands is a natural and common behavior.
  • Understanding the reasons behind hand chewing can help parents provide a supportive environment for their baby’s exploration.
  • Alternatives to hand chewing, such as teething toys, can provide safe and appropriate oral stimulation for babies.

Understanding the Natural Instinct

It’s no secret that babies love to put things in their mouths. But why do babies chew on their hands specifically? The answer lies in their natural instinct to explore their surroundings using their hands.

As babies develop their fine motor skills, they become increasingly aware of their hands and the objects they can grasp. This leads to hand-to-mouth exploration, and eventually, chewing.

This behavior is entirely natural and serves an essential purpose in their development. By exploring their environment through taste and touch, babies develop their sensory and cognitive abilities.

Sensory Stimulation and Teething

One of the key reasons why babies chew on their hands is for sensory stimulation, particularly during the teething phase. The pressure and movement of the mouth and jaw can provide relief for the discomfort and soreness associated with teething.

Tip:Offer your baby a variety of teething toys to chew on, such as silicone teethers or cold washcloths.

It’s important to note that hand chewing during teething is a normal and natural behavior. However, it’s important to ensure that the hands are clean to prevent any possible infection or illness.

Providing your baby with safe and appropriate objects to chew on can help redirect their hand chewing behaviors and satisfy their need for oral stimulation.

Self-Soothing and Emotional Regulation

Hand chewing can serve as a self-soothing mechanism for babies, helping them regulate emotions and find comfort when feeling overwhelmed or anxious. The repetitive motion of chewing and pressure on the gums can provide a sense of calm and distraction from negative stimuli.

It’s important to note that some babies may rely on hand chewing more heavily as a coping mechanism, particularly in situations that may be outside of their comfort zone or routine. If your baby seems to be excessively chewing on their hands, it may be a sign that they need more support or comfort from you.

As a caregiver, you can help facilitate healthy self-soothing strategies for your baby. This can include creating a calm and consistent environment, providing comfort through physical touch and attention, and offering safe and appropriate objects for chewing.

Exploring the World Through Taste

Babies love to explore their environment and discover new sensations, and one of the ways they do this is by putting objects in their mouth. Hand chewing is a natural extension of this behavior, as babies use their hands to touch and manipulate objects before inevitably bringing them to their mouth.

Through hand chewing, babies also get to experience different textures and tastes. As they explore their hands, they can discover the salty taste of sweat or the sweet taste of lotion. While it may be concerning for parents to watch their baby put their hands in their mouth, it’s important to remember that this is a normal part of exploration and development.

If you’re concerned about the safety of your baby’s hand chewing, there are ways to ensure a safe environment for them to explore. Provide safe objects for your baby to chew on, such as teething toys or chilled washcloths. Additionally, make sure to keep your baby’s hands clean and free from any potential hazards.

By providing a supportive environment for your baby to explore and taste new things, you can help them develop their natural curiosity and satisfy their need for oral stimulation.

Developmental Milestones and Oral Motor Skills

Babies use their mouths to explore their environment, and hand-to-mouth movements are a natural part of this process. In fact, this oral exploration can be linked to the development of oral motor skills. These skills include tongue control, jaw movement, and the coordination of mouth muscles necessary for later stages of eating and speech development.

As babies chew on their hands, they are strengthening these oral motor skills. By applying pressure to the gums, they are developing the muscles needed for chewing and talking. This is why hand chewing is a common behavior, particularly in the teething phase.

However, it is important to note that excessive or prolonged hand chewing may indicate underlying issues or delays in oral motor skill development. In such cases, consulting with a healthcare professional is recommended.

Social Interaction and Attention Seeking

Babies are social beings and seek out interactions with caregivers and others. Chewing on their hands may be a way for them to initiate engagement or to gain attention and affection. This behavior can be reinforced when caregivers respond to their hand chewing with verbal or physical attention, such as picking them up or providing comfort.

In some cases, hand chewing may become a habit or a learned behavior that persists even when not seeking attention. It is important to differentiate between normal hand chewing and excessive or compulsive behavior that may require further investigation.

Tip: If you notice your baby persistently chewing on their hands and seeking attention in other ways, try to engage with them in alternative ways, such as singing, reading, or playing together.

Normalizing the Behavior

It is natural for babies to explore their environment using their hands, and chewing on their hands is a common behavior. Parents may worry that their baby’s hand chewing is a sign of teething discomfort or an indication of a developmental issue, but this is not typically the case. Hand chewing in babies is usually a normal part of their development and growth.

Babies are born with a natural instinct to explore. Hand-to-mouth exploration is a common behavior that babies engage in to learn about their surroundings. Babies chew on their hands as a natural extension of this instinct. Chewing provides sensory stimulation, helps soothe sore gums during teething, and can be a self-soothing mechanism for emotional regulation.

It is important to remember that babies will outgrow this behavior as they develop other ways to explore and interact with their surroundings. As a parent, your role is to provide a safe and supportive environment for your baby’s exploration.

When to Seek Medical Advice

Although hand chewing is typically a normal part of a baby’s development, there are some instances where it may be a sign of concern. If your baby seems to be chewing excessively, to the point of causing sores or cuts on their hands, it may be worth seeking medical advice. Additionally, if your baby is experiencing other symptoms such as fever or diarrhea, or seems to be in pain or discomfort, it is important to bring this to the attention of your pediatrician.

If you notice that your baby is not meeting other developmental milestones, such as sitting up or babbling, alongside their hand chewing behavior, it may also be worth discussing this with your healthcare provider. They will be able to assess your baby’s development and provide advice or referrals as needed.

As a parent, it can be difficult to know when to seek medical advice. Remember, you know your baby best, and if you have any concerns about their health or development, it is always better to err on the side of caution. Your pediatrician is there to support you and your baby, and provide the best possible care.

Tips to Encourage Healthy Chewing Habits

If you’re concerned about your baby’s hand chewing behavior or simply want to redirect their chewing habits, there are several strategies you can try:

  • Offer safe, age-appropriate teething toys designed to soothe sore gums. Soft rubber or silicone options are great choices for massaging gums.
  • Provide chilled teething rings or washcloths for added comfort and relief.
  • Ensure your baby’s hands are clean, and offer a safe, sanitized object for them to chew on, such as a silicone teething necklace or bracelet.
  • Try distracting your baby with other activities, such as singing or reading a book.
  • Encourage healthy chewing habits by modeling oral hygiene and demonstrating how to use a toothbrush or chew on appropriate objects.

Remember, it’s important to create a safe and supportive environment for your baby to explore and satisfy their need to chew. With patience and persistence, you can help your baby develop healthy chewing habits and alleviate any discomfort associated with teething.

Ensuring Safety and Hygiene

As your baby explores their environment through hand chewing, it’s important to ensure that the objects they come into contact with are clean and safe. This can help prevent the spread of germs and protect your baby from potential hazards.

Regularly wash your hands and your baby’s hands with soap and warm water, especially before meals and after diaper changes. Keep toys and objects that your baby chews on clean by washing them with soap and warm water or using a baby-safe disinfectant.

It’s also important to provide safe objects for your baby to chew on. Avoid small objects that can be swallowed or pose a choking hazard, such as buttons or coins. Instead, opt for teething toys that are designed to be safe and provide relief for sore gums.

Teething toysSmall objects like coins or buttons
Cold washclothsBroken or damaged toys
Silicone teethersJewelry or necklaces

During this exploratory phase, it’s important to supervise your baby to ensure their safety. Keep an eye on them as they explore and refrain from leaving them alone with objects that pose a choking hazard.

By ensuring safety and hygiene, you can help create a safe and supportive environment for your baby’s exploration.

Alternatives to Hand Chewing

While hand chewing is a normal part of a baby’s development, it’s important to guide them towards more appropriate forms of oral stimulation. Here are some alternatives to hand chewing:

Teething Toys

Teething toys are designed specifically to help relieve the discomfort of teething. Look for toys with different textures and shapes to provide a range of sensory stimulation.

Chilled Washcloths

Wet a washcloth with cold water and place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes. The cool and slightly textured surface can provide soothing relief for sore gums.

Munch Mittens

Munch mittens are fabric gloves with silicone or rubber pads on the surface for babies to chew on. They allow babies to safely self-soothe while preventing them from scratching or injuring themselves with their nails.

Safe Foods

If your baby has started solid foods, you can offer them cold and soft foods like bananas, chilled cucumbers, or watermelon. Always supervise your baby while they’re eating to prevent choking hazards.

Remember to choose safe and non-toxic options for your baby’s oral exploration. If you’re not sure whether a toy or object is safe, consult the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) website for up-to-date information.

Parental Support and Understanding

As a parent, it can be concerning to see your baby constantly chewing on their hands. However, it is important to understand that this behavior is usually normal and part of their early development. Providing support and understanding during this exploratory phase can help your baby feel safe and secure.

One way to support your baby is to provide comfort and reassurance. If they are chewing on their hands to self-soothe or regulate their emotions, offer calming words and gentle touches. This can help them feel secure and reduce the need to chew on their hands.

It is also important to offer safe objects for your baby to chew on. Teething toys, chilled washcloths, or safe chewable objects can provide the oral stimulation they need without the risk of choking or injury. Regularly cleaning these items can also help prevent the spread of germs and maintain hygiene.

Finally, monitoring your baby’s developmental milestones in addition to their hand chewing behavior is important. Regular check-ups with your healthcare provider can help identify any concerns or issues early on.

Remember, as a parent, you play an important role in supporting and facilitating your baby’s development. By creating a safe and supportive environment, you can help them explore and learn in a healthy and happy way.

Tracking Developmental Milestones

While hand chewing is typically a normal behavior in young babies, it’s important to monitor their overall development alongside this activity. Keeping track of milestones such as sitting up, crawling, and reaching for objects can help determine if there are any delays or concerns.

Regular check-ups with a healthcare provider can also provide valuable information on a baby’s growth and development. Be sure to share any observations or questions about your baby’s behavior, including hand chewing habits, with your doctor.


In conclusion, babies chewing on their hands is a common behavior that can serve various purposes. It can be a natural instinct to explore their surroundings, provide sensory stimulation during teething, serve as a self-soothing mechanism, aid in the development of oral motor skills, or be a way to seek attention or engage in social interaction.

It’s important to understand that hand chewing is typically a normal part of a baby’s development. However, if there are concerns over potential red flags or situations where hand chewing may indicate an underlying issue, it is important to consult a healthcare professional.

Parents can encourage healthy chewing habits by providing safe objects for their babies to chew on and creating a supportive environment for exploration. Ensuring safety and hygiene is a crucial aspect of preventing potential choking hazards and maintaining clean hands.

Alternatives to hand chewing include teething toys or chilled washcloths. Parents should also track their baby’s overall developmental milestones and consult their healthcare provider for regular check-ups and assessments.

In all, with parental support and understanding, babies can explore and satisfy their need for oral stimulation in a safe and healthy way.


Q: Why do babies chew on their hands?

A: Babies chew on their hands for various reasons. It can be a natural instinct for exploration, a way to soothe sore gums during teething, a means of self-soothing and emotional regulation, or a way to explore the world through taste.

Q: What are the causes of baby hand chewing?

A: Baby hand chewing can be caused by the innate instinct to explore their surroundings, teething discomfort, the need for self-soothing, the desire to seek attention or engage in social interaction, the development of oral motor skills, and the curiosity to taste different textures.

Q: How can I help my baby with hand chewing?

A: You can assist your baby by providing safe teething toys or objects for them to chew on. It is also important to create a supportive environment that allows them to explore and satisfy their need to chew safely.

Q: When should I seek medical advice regarding baby hand chewing?

A: If your baby’s hand chewing behavior is accompanied by other concerning symptoms or if you have any worries about their development, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation.

Q: How can I prevent baby hand chewing?

A: To prevent excessive hand chewing, you can redirect their behavior to appropriate teething toys or safe objects. It is also important to ensure cleanliness and hygiene, as well as supervise your baby during this exploratory phase to avoid potential choking hazards.

Q: Are there alternatives to hand chewing?

A: Yes, there are alternatives to hand chewing. You can offer teething toys, chilled washcloths, or other safe objects that provide oral stimulation and satisfy your baby’s need to chew.

Q: What role do parents play in supporting baby hand chewing?

A: Parents play a crucial role in supporting and understanding their baby’s hand chewing behavior. It is important to provide comfort, reassurance, and a safe environment for their exploration.

Q: Should I track other developmental milestones alongside hand chewing behaviors?

A: Yes, it is recommended to monitor other developmental milestones alongside hand chewing behaviors. Regular check-ups and assessments with a healthcare provider can provide a comprehensive view of your baby’s development.

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