Why Is My Little One Constantly Gnawing on Their Fingers? Uncovering the Surprising Reasons Behind Baby Hand-Chewing

As parents, we often find ourselves observing and analyzing every little thing our babies do. From their first smile to their first word, every milestone is celebrated. But what about when we notice our little ones start to chew on their hands? It can be a confusing and sometimes concerning behavior. Is it a natural part of their development or a sign of something more serious? In this article, we will explore the reasons behind why babies chew on their hands and what it means for their growth and development. So, if you’re wondering “why is my baby chewing on his hands?”, keep reading to find out.

Babies explore the world around them through their senses, and one of the ways they do this is by putting things in their mouths. As a new parent, you may have noticed that your baby has started chewing on his hands. While this behavior may seem strange and even concerning to you, it is actually a normal and natural part of your baby’s development. In this article, we will delve deeper into this topic and answer the question: Why is my baby chewing on his hands?

Understanding normal infant development

To understand why your baby is chewing on his hands, it’s important to first understand normal infant development. Babies are born with certain reflexes that help them survive in the outside world. One of these reflexes is the sucking reflex, which allows babies to suckle on their mother’s breast for nourishment. This reflex also leads them to put anything that touches their lips into their mouths.

As babies grow and develop, they continue to explore the world through their senses. One of the main ways they do this is through mouthing or putting objects in their mouths. This helps them learn about different textures, tastes, and temperatures. It also helps them develop hand-eye coordination as they reach for objects and bring them to their mouths.

The role of teething

Another reason why your baby may be chewing on his hands is because he’s teething. Teething usually starts around 6 months of age but can vary from baby to baby. As new teeth are pushing through your baby’s gums, he may experience discomfort or pain. Chewing on objects helps alleviate some of this discomfort by providing counter pressure to the gums.

During the teething process, your baby may also produce more saliva than usual which can lead to drooling and a need for more oral stimulation. Chewing on hands or other objects can satisfy this need for oral stimulation.

Exploring new sensations

Babies are naturally curious beings and are constantly exploring their surroundings. As they begin to discover their hands, they may become fascinated with the new textures, movements, and sensations of their hands in their mouths. This can lead to increased hand chewing as a way for your baby to learn about his body and the world around him.

Your baby may also be trying to figure out cause-and-effect by experimenting with different movements and how they affect his body. Chewing on his hands may give him a sense of satisfaction as he discovers that it is something he can control.


Babies may also chew on their hands as a way to self-soothe. As adults, we have certain coping mechanisms like taking deep breaths or going for a walk. Babies, on the other hand, haven’t developed these coping skills yet and rely on things like sucking or chewing for comfort.

When your baby chews on his hands, it may provide him with a sense of calmness and reassurance. That’s why you may notice your baby chewing on his hands more when he’s tired or fussy. It’s a way for him to cope with any discomfort or stress he may be feeling.

When is hand chewing considered abnormal?

While hand-chewing is a normal part of infant development, there are some instances where it could be a sign of an underlying issue. If your baby is excessively chewing his hands to the point where they’re red or irritated, it could indicate an oral-motor issue.

Oral-motor issues can occur if there are problems with tongue placement or muscle tone in the mouth and face. These issues can affect how your baby sucks, swallows, and chews which could lead to excessive hand-chewing. If you suspect that this is the case, it’s best to consult your pediatrician for further evaluation.

How to manage hand chewing

As a parent, you may be wondering if there are ways to manage your baby’s hand chewing. While it may not be possible to completely stop this behavior, there are some things you can do to help redirect it.

Offering your baby safe and appropriate objects to chew on, such as teething toys or soft washcloths, can satisfy his need for oral stimulation. You can also try gently rubbing your baby’s gums with a clean finger or offer a chilled teething ring to help ease any discomfort from teething.

It’s also important to address any underlying issues that may be causing excessive hand-chewing. Work with your pediatrician or a speech therapist if there are any concerns about oral-motor development.

In conclusion, it is completely normal for babies to chew on their hands as they explore the world around them. It can serve as a way for them to learn about their bodies, self-soothe, and alleviate discomfort from teething. However, if excessive hand-chewing is causing irritation or there are concerns about oral-motor development, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional. Remember that every baby is different and

Reasons for babies to chew on their hands

Babies are known to explore the world through their mouths. It is common for them to put any object they can get their hands on into their mouths, including their own hands. As a parent, you may start to wonder why your little one is constantly chewing on their hands. Is it just a reflex or does it signify something more serious? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your baby might be chewing on their hands.


The most common reason for babies to chew on their hands is teething. Teething typically starts when your baby is around 6 months old, but it can vary from one baby to another. Teething is a natural process of the teeth breaking through the gums and can cause discomfort and irritation for babies. Chewing on something hard or firm like a hand or finger provides relief by putting pressure on the gums.

Sensory exploration

Another reason why babies might chew on their hands is simply because they are exploring the world around them through touch and taste. Babies are naturally curious and want to experience different textures and sensations. By putting their hands in their mouth, they can feel and taste different objects that may be unfamiliar to them.


Chewing on their hands can also be a way for babies to self-soothe when feeling overwhelmed or upset. The action of sucking and biting helps them relax and calm down, similar to how adults turn to comfort foods in times of stress.


As babies grow, they may start to feel bored more easily as they become more aware of their surroundings. Chewing on their hands can be a way for them to entertain themselves, especially when they are unable to do other activities like crawling or playing with toys.


Sometimes babies may chew on their hands because they are hungry. This is especially common if they are going through a growth spurt or if they are not getting enough nutrition from breast milk or formula. By chewing on their hands, babies are instinctively preparing their mouths for breastfeeding or bottle feeding.

Dangers of chewing on hands

While it is normal for babies to chew on their hands, there are some potential risks associated with this behavior that parents should be aware of.

Choking hazard

Babies have a natural gag reflex which helps prevent them from choking on objects that are too big to swallow. However, when they start to explore their surroundings, they may not yet have the ability to distinguish between what is safe and what is not safe to put in their mouths. This can put them at risk of choking on small objects or pieces that break off from their hands.

Infections and germs

Babies’ hands come into contact with many different objects throughout the day, including dirty surfaces and toys. When they put their hands in their mouths, they can easily transfer bacteria and germs into their bodies, increasing the risk of infections like colds and stomach bugs.

How to discourage hand chewing

If you’re concerned about your baby’s habit of chewing on their hands, there are some ways you can discourage this behavior.

Offer a teething toy

As mentioned earlier, teething is a common reason for babies to chew on their hands. Providing them with a teething toy can help satisfy their need to chew while also promoting healthy gum development.

Distract your baby

If your baby seems bored and starts chewing on their hands as a way to entertain themselves, try offering them a new toy or engaging them in a new activity. This can help redirect their attention and prevent them from chewing on their hands out of boredom.

Keep hands clean

To reduce the risk of infections, it is important to keep your baby’s hands clean. Wash their hands with warm water and soap regularly, especially before meals.

Consult a doctor

If you notice that your baby is excessively chewing on their hands or if you have any concerns, it is always best to consult with your child’s pediatrician. They can provide further guidance and advice based on your baby’s individual needs and development.

The bottom line

In most cases, babies chewing on their hands is completely normal and part of their development. It often serves as a way for them to explore, soothe themselves, or satisfy a natural urge to chew. However, as a parent, it is important to be aware of any potential risks and take necessary precautions to keep your little one safe. If you have any concerns or questions about your baby’s hand chewing habits, don’t hesitate to reach out to your child’s healthcare provider for guidance.

Q: Why is my baby chewing on his hands?
A: Babies chew on their hands as a natural part of their development. It helps them explore and learn about the world around them.

Q: Is my baby teething if he is constantly chewing on his hands?
A: It is possible that your baby may be experiencing teething discomfort, but it is also common for babies to chew on their hands even when they are not teething. Consult your pediatrician for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Q: Does it mean my baby is hungry if he is chewing on his hands?
A: Not necessarily. When a baby is hungry, they will usually cry or show other signs such as rooting for the breast or bottle. Chewing on hands can also be a self-soothing behavior for babies.

Q: How can I tell if my baby’s hand-chewing is excessive or abnormal?
A: Every baby is different, but generally, excessive hand-chewing may be a sign of boredom, anxiety or dental issues. If you are concerned, consult with your pediatrician to determine the cause.

Q: How can I prevent my baby from chewing on his hands?
A: It is not necessary to prevent your baby from chewing on his hands as it is a natural behavior. However, you can offer alternative items such as teething toys to redirect their chewing and soothe any discomfort.

Q: Should I be concerned if my older baby suddenly starts chewing on his hands again?
A: It is common for babies to go through phases of hand-chewing throughout their development. If your older baby suddenly starts this behavior again, consider any recent changes in their routine or environment that may have caused them stress.

In conclusion, it is completely normal for babies to chew on their hands as they explore and discover their surroundings. It is a natural developmental stage that aids in the development of their fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and oral exploration. However, excessive hand chewing could also be a sign of teething, hunger, or simply a comforting habit.

As caregivers and parents, it is important to keep a close eye on the baby’s hand chewing habits and intervene if necessary. This can be done by offering alternative teething toys or objects for the baby to chew on, providing them with proper nutrition and satisfying their hunger needs, and creating a soothing environment for them to feel calm.

Furthermore, it is crucial to understand that every baby is different and may have unique reasons for chewing on their hands. Observing and getting to know your baby’s cues can help identify the underlying cause of their hand-chewing behavior.

Overall, babies chewing on their hands should not be a cause for concern unless it becomes excessive or accompanied by other symptoms. With proper care and attention, this behavior can be a key part of your baby’s development journey. So instead of worrying about why your baby is chewing on his hands, embrace this phase of growth and enjoy watching your little one explore the world around them

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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.

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