Does your baby’s scratching have you scratching your head?
Unfortunately, answering the question, “why does my baby scratch their head” brings various answers. However, it’s typically not a cause for alarm and is due to an underlying reason, like teething or cradle cap.
But I don’t blame you for wanting to know why your baby is scratching. Half my videos when my kids were babies were of things I didn’t think were normal. For example, my daughter, who is my youngest, did this head-bobbing thing that I constantly tried to record. However, once I got it on camera, my pediatrician looked at me like I had a third eye.
While there certainly are things we should address with the doctor, babies do some strange stuff that you sometimes must adjust to. But I’ve laid out the top 6 potential reasons why your baby is scratching their head and whether it is normal or not.
I’m no doctor, but I’m a mom of 3 who has seen a lot, and I know babies can make you stress out. So, I hope this article helps relieve some stress on why your baby is scratching their head.
Is It Normal for Babies to Pull or Scratch Their Hair?
Generally, it is normal for babies to pull or scratch their hair. Sometimes, babies pull their hair because it’s a new feeling, and they recently discovered they have hair. In addition, babies pull their hair as a way to self-soothe and comfort themselves.
A visit to the pediatrician is usually only warranted if they are scratching to the point of drawing blood. In addition, if they often cry while pulling or scratching their hair, you probably want to phone your doctor to address the issues.
In addition, I highly recommend getting a video of your baby as they scratch. While babies never seem to perform on video, it will show the pediatrician precisely what you are concerned about.
7 Reasons Your Baby Might Be Scratching Their Head
1. Cradle Cap
Your baby might have a cradle cap causing their head to be dry. Cradle cap is easily distinguishable by its crusty or oily scaly patches.
The cause of cradle cap isn’t precisely known, but many think it’s due to excessive oils in the baby’s skin, which is usually because the mother’s hormones are still flowing throughout the baby’s blood.
Mayo Clinic recommends shampooing your baby’s hair daily using mild shampoos. However, you should avoid antifungal cream or cortisone because they can be absorbed into the baby’s skin. If you use dandruff shampoo, avoid anything containing salicylic acid because it can be absorbed too.
In addition, you can gently rub your baby’s scalp but resist the urge to scratch the scales. You can, however, try to loosen the scales with a soft bristle brush after you shampoo your baby’s hair.
The stages of teething can bring various symptoms causing discomfort for your baby, including scratching their head. For example, if they are in discomfort, they will reach for the area that is bothering them.
Your pediatrician may recommend Motrin for teething pain, or you can try non-medicinal techniques, like a frozen washcloth or rubbing a wet gauze over your teeth. Teething isn’t usually a cause for concern, but if it seems like your baby is extra irritable, a call to the doctor never hurts.
3. Dry Scalp
Your baby also might have dryness due to eczema, allergies, or dandruff, which are all treatable at home. If you’ve ever had a dry scalp, you know how uncomfortable it is, so it’s no different for your little one.
While dryness isn’t a cause for concern, if the dryness doesn’t go away after a few weeks, you should contact your pediatrician or dermatologist for a prescription-strength
You need to be careful with over-the-counter lotions that can worsen the problem. In a pinch, ask the pharmacist at the local drug store what they recommend for a dry scalp.
If you notice them excessively scratching their head, you want to rule out head lice, an unfortunate thing that is common in children. While I hope it’s not lice, it’s essential to check if your child is often around other children.
My children’s school recently went through a bout of lice, and it spread fast. Somehow, my kids never got it, but it was amazing how quickly it spread. Also, it doesn’t mean the child isn’t clean because they could have easily picked it up from the carpet at a local play place. Finally, a specialty baby shampoo can help get rid of lice.
4. Ear Infection
If your baby is constantly scratching their head, it can be a sign of discomfort, and they may have an ear infection. You may also notice they tug their ears, a common sign of something happening inside. In addition, other symptoms of a middle ear infection include fever, trouble hearing sounds, loss of appetite, and excessive fussiness.
If your little one has an ear infection, you want to make them as comfortable as possible, which includes their favorite blankie and a supply of pacifiers on standby.
Ear infections are common amongst little ones, but If you suspect it is the culprit, you should always contact your pediatrician because your child may require antibiotics.
If they don’t have an ear infection, they might have earwax buildup, which can also cause discomfort. However, your doctor can help with the best ways to clear out their ears.
5. Your Baby Might Have Ringworm
While the sound of ringworm might make you throw up a little in your mouth, it has nothing to do with worms. However, a ringworm on the scalp can look like a curled-up worm under the skin. Unlike the name suggests, ringworm is a highly contagious fungal infection.
Ringworm isn’t a severe infection but can cause scratching and skin irritation. In addition, if a baby is constantly itching the infected area, it can cause bacteria to enter the skin, causing an infection. Therefore, if you suspect ringworm, contact your pediatrician for treatment remedies.
Typically, your doctor will prescribe an antifungal cream, with symptoms going away within a few weeks. However, after 2-3 days of treatment, your child is no longer contagious. One of the best ways to prevent ringworm is by reducing moisture, including regularly changing your baby’s diaper.
6. Your Baby is Overtired
Whenever my babies were tired, they always brought their hands to their heads. If your baby typically scratches their head while tired, you can give them mittens to wear to prevent your baby’s fingernails from scratching its face.
Baby nails can get sharp, so clipping them regularly is a smart idea. I am a massive fan of the Safety 1st Nail Clipper because it has a built-in light, which helps eliminate the fear of cutting their finger. A baby’s startle reflex is strong when they are a newborn, so their new reflexes are more likely to scratch their face.
Babies and young children are challenging because they can’t tell us what’s wrong, so it’s wise to pay attention to the signs they give so you know what’s normal and what’s not. While a tired baby doesn’t warrant a call to the doctor, it’s always good to let a tired baby rest.
7. Your Baby is Exploring Their Body
If you haven’t checked any of the boxes above, your baby could be scratching their head because they are exploring its body. Also, if you don’t find a rash, blisters, or sores on their body, your baby likely is just checking out their new territory.
While it may confuse you, babies are curious, and it’s a natural part of their development. If scratching is part of your baby’s exploration, they will outgrow it and be on to a new questionable activity in no time.
Kelly is a mom of three who finds joy in writing about her parenting experiences and filling in others about the must-have products and the ones you can leave on the store shelf. With a bit of humor, Kelly tries to laugh off the messy side of parenting and, instead, focus on the beautiful moments it brings. Originally from South Florida, she now calls Northern Virginia home and looks forward to connecting with readers through The Place for Parents.