Why Do Babies Scratch Their Head? Unraveling the Surprising Reasons Behind This Common Behavior

As parents and caregivers, it’s natural for us to want to protect our little ones from any discomfort or harm. So when we see our precious babies constantly scratching their heads, it can be both concerning and frustrating. What could possibly be causing these tiny fingers to mercilessly scratch away at their delicate scalps? In this article, we will explore the common reasons behind why babies scratch their head and what can be done to alleviate this behavior. Some may surprise you, while others may provide a sense of relief as you understand the reasoning behind it. Let’s dive in and uncover the mystery behind this often misunderstood behavior.

Reasons behind why babies scratch their head

Scratching is a natural and common reflex in babies, and it is not unusual for parents to see their little ones scratching their heads often. However, it can be concerning for some parents as they may wonder why their baby is constantly scratching their head. There can be various reasons behind this behavior, ranging from normal developmental milestones to some underlying medical conditions. In this article, we will explore the different reasons behind why babies scratch their heads.

1. Eczema or other skin conditions

One of the most common reasons behind a baby scratching their head is eczema or other skin conditions like cradle cap. Eczema is a skin condition characterized by dry, itchy, and inflamed patches of skin. It usually affects infants and children and can appear on the scalp, cheeks, arms, legs, or chest. Cradle cap, on the other hand, is a form of seborrheic dermatitis that commonly occurs in babies under three months of age. It causes scaly patches on the scalp that may be itchy and flaky.

Babies with eczema or cradle cap tend to scratch their heads more frequently as they try to relieve the itchiness caused by these conditions. Parents should consult a pediatrician if they suspect their baby has eczema or cradle cap.

2. Dry skin

Just like adults, babies can also have dry skin due to various reasons such as weather changes or using harsh soaps or lotions. Dry skin can make your baby’s scalp feel tight and itchy which can cause them to scratch their head frequently. To combat dry skin on your baby’s head, make sure you moisturize it regularly with mild baby lotion or natural oils like coconut oil.

3. Teething

Teething is another common reason behind a baby scratching their head. When babies start teething, they experience discomfort and itching in their gums which can lead to them rubbing or scratching their head to alleviate the pain. This behavior typically stops once the teething phase is over.

4. Sensory exploration

Babies are naturally curious and love exploring things with their senses, including touch. As they grow and develop, they become more aware of their body parts, including their head. Babies may scratch their heads simply because it feels good or they are trying to explore the sensations that it brings.

5. Self-soothing

Just like sucking their thumb or using a pacifier, some babies find scratching as a soothing habit. The repetitive motion of scratching can be calming for some babies and help them relax and fall asleep.

6. Habitual behavior

Sometimes, babies develop habitual behaviors like scratching due to boredom or out of habit. Babies may unconsciously scratch their head when they are bored during playtime or before bedtime because they associate it with feeling relaxed and sleepy.

7. Allergic reactions

Some babies may be allergic to certain fabrics, detergents, or shampoos that come in contact with their scalp resulting in itchiness and redness. If you suspect an allergic reaction is causing your baby to scratch their head, consult a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment.

How to prevent excessive scratching?

Preventing excessive scratching depends on the underlying cause behind it. Here are some tips that can help prevent your baby from scratching too much:

– Keep your baby’s scalp clean by washing it gently with mild baby shampoo.
– Use moisturizers regularly on your baby’s scalp if they have dry skin.
– Avoid using harsh chemicals in soaps, lotions, or detergents that can irritate your baby’s skin.
– Trim your baby’s nails regularly to prevent any damage to the scalp when they scratch.
– Keep an eye out for possible allergens and avoid them if found.
– Distraction techniques like providing toys or engaging in playtime can help divert your baby’s mind from scratching.
– Use mittens or cotton gloves to cover your baby’s hands and prevent them from scratching their scalp.

When should you worry?

Scratching is a common behavior in babies, but excessive and persistent scratching may indicate an underlying problem. If you notice your baby is constantly scratching their head, here are some warning signs to look out for:

– Redness, swelling, or rash on the scalp
– Persistent itching that doesn’t go away with home remedies
– Bleeding or oozing from the scalp
– Unusual hair loss or thinning patches on the scalp
– Foul smell from the scalp

If you observe any of these symptoms, consult a pediatrician for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Scratching their head is a common behavior in babies that can have various reasons behind it. While most of the time it is a harmless reflex, excessive and persistent scratching may indicate

Babies are a source of joy and happiness for any family. However, along with their adorable giggles and smiles, they also come with some strange behaviors that can leave parents puzzled. One such common behavior is the tendency to scratch their head. You may have noticed that your little one constantly scratches their head while sleeping, playing, or even when they are calm. This can often spark the question – why do babies scratch their head? Let’s dive into the possible reasons behind this behavior and understand if it is something to be concerned about.

Development of Hand-Eye Coordination

The most common reason for babies scratching their heads is the development of hand-eye coordination. During the first few months of life, babies are exploring and discovering their surroundings through touch. When they scratch their head, it is a way to feel their own body and learn more about themselves. It also helps in building muscle strength in their arms and fingers. As they continue to develop fine motor skills, this behavior tends to decrease.

Soothing Self

Babies are born with an innate reflex called ‘Startle Reflex’ which causes them to suddenly jerk or make random movements when startled by a loud noise or sudden change in environment. This reflex usually disappears by the time they reach 4-5 months old. However, scratching has been observed as a self-soothing mechanism for babies when triggered by this reflex. The gentle sensation provided by scratching helps them calm down and feel secure.

Exploring Their Body

As babies grow older, they become increasingly curious about their body parts. From grasping their feet to sucking on their fingers, they are constantly exploring new sensations. Similarly, scratching is another way for them to understand how different parts of their body work. Not only does it satisfy their curiosity but it also gives them a sense of control over their body.


The teething phase is a challenging time for both babies and their parents. As the teeth start to erupt through the gums, it can cause discomfort and irritation. Babies often scratch their heads as a distraction from the pain they experience in their mouth. This behavior may also be accompanied by drooling and increased irritability.

Eczema or Other Skin Conditions

In some cases, babies may scratch their head due to underlying skin conditions such as eczema, cradle cap, or dry skin. These conditions can cause itching and discomfort which prompts the little ones to try and relieve themselves through scratching. If you notice redness or flaky patches on your baby’s scalp along with constant scratching, it is best to consult a pediatrician for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Ill-fitting Clothes or Accessories

Babies are extremely sensitive to even the slightest discomfort. It is important to ensure that their clothes and accessories are comfortable and not causing any irritation or pressure on their delicate skin. Tight headbands, hats, or even fabric labels on their clothing can lead to constant scratching of the head.


Believe it or not, babies can get bored too! When they have nothing else to do, they might resort to scratching just out of habit. This usually happens when they are confined in one position for a long time, like in a car seat or stroller. By scratching their head, they are finding ways to entertain themselves.

As you can see, there are multiple reasons why babies scratch their heads. Most of the time it is nothing to be concerned about as it is just a natural part of their development process. However, if your baby seems overly irritable or if you notice any changes in their skin, it is always best to consult a pediatrician. In most cases, the scratching behavior will subside as they grow older and their motor skills improve. Just remember to keep an eye on your little one but don’t worry too much, as it is just a phase that they will outgrow eventually.

1. Why do babies scratch their head?

Babies often scratch their head due to a variety of reasons, such as dry skin, cradle cap, eczema, or teething. Scratching may also provide a soothing sensation for them when they are tired or irritable.

2. Should I be concerned if my baby scratches their head frequently?

If your baby only scratches their head occasionally, it is usually not a cause for concern. However, if the scratching becomes excessive or causes skin irritation or bleeding, it is best to consult a pediatrician to address any underlying issues.

3. How can I prevent my baby from scratching their head?

To prevent your baby from scratching their head, keep their nails short and smooth. You can also try distracting them with toys or activities when they start scratching. Applying a gentle moisturizer on their scalp can also help soothe any dryness that may be causing the itching.

4. Can teething cause babies to scratch their head?

Yes, teething can cause babies to scratch not only their head but also other parts of their body as it can be uncomfortable and painful for them. Rubbing or applying gentle pressure on the affected area may provide some relief for your little one.

5. Is eczema common in babies and can it cause them to scratch their head?

Yes, eczema is quite common in infants and young children and is one of the leading causes of itching and scratching in babies. It is important to consult with a doctor if you suspect your baby has eczema so that proper treatment can be initiated.

6. How long does it take for cradle cap to go away on its own?

Cradle cap typically goes away on its own within a few months, but it can also persist for up to a year. Gently washing your baby’s scalp with a mild shampoo and using a soft-bristled brush to remove any flakes can help speed up the process. If the cradle cap becomes severe or itchy, consult your doctor for proper treatment options.

In conclusion, babies scratch their head for various reasons, but it is mainly due to their developing motor skills and sensory exploration. This natural behavior can also be triggered by external factors such as dry skin, allergies, or discomfort. As parents and caregivers, it is important to understand the potential reasons for your baby’s head scratching and address them accordingly.

One key takeaway from this topic is that scratching is a normal and necessary part of a baby’s development. It helps with their hand-eye coordination, perception of touch and texture, and can provide a sense of comfort. However, excessive scratching can lead to skin irritation and infection, so it is important to monitor your baby’s scratching habits and intervene when necessary.

Moreover, being aware of possible underlying causes such as eczema or allergies can help in finding appropriate solutions for your baby’s discomfort. Keeping your baby’s skin moisturized and using hypoallergenic products can also alleviate itching.

It is also essential to create a safe environment for your baby to explore without getting hurt. Trimming their nails regularly can prevent accidental scratches on their delicate scalp. Additionally, providing alternative items for them to touch and play with can redirect their focus from scratching.

In summary, understanding why babies scratch their head is crucial in nurturing their development while promoting overall

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Lian Chikako Chang
Welcome to Littldata! Our mission is to help parents streamline their family logistics with practical tools and insights. Whether you’re managing school schedules, extracurricular activities, or family outings.

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Hi, I’m Lian Chikako Chang. I’m a data researcher and mom living in San Francisco. At Littldata, my goal is to help parents figure out their family logistics by sharing calendars, maps, lists, and spreadsheets–as well as research-backed blog posts and data graphics.

From 2024, I have embarked on a new journey of writing an informative blog on the “Littldata” niche.

In this blog, I strive to provide valuable insights and answer queries on topics that parents frequently seek out. My focus is on creating content that is not only practical but also backed by thorough research.