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itchy or grabby baby?

The Seven-Month Itch

By Amalah

Dear Amy,

In the grand scheme of things, I have no problems. My 7-month-old girl child is the most perfect, beautiful, genius creature to ever inhabit the planet. So if this is all I have to complain about, I’m really okay.

The girl is all clawing hands, all the time. Digging nails into my boob while eating, pinching my arm fat with the other hand. Tearing her ears up with teething pain. And Lord help her delicate girly parts when the diaper comes off. My husband worries that she could have an infection she’s scratching at but, since she’s equal-opportunity grabtastic, I’m not too worried on that front. Still. What up? And how do I save her from herself?

Many thanks.
Julie

(P.S. I trim her nails, I swear.)

Haaaaaa, but yes. YES. I walked around for MONTHS with an endless array of bright red scratches all over my cleavage and arms, thanks to this very “quirk.”

At some point nursing or bottle-feeding can become contact sports, as your baby flexes those developing fine motor skills by smacking, pinching and scratching anything and everything he can get his mitts on. Your hair gets pulled, your teeth and gums get prodded, your boobs get pounded on and yanked and yes, your skin gets scratched up. It’s fun! It’s like trying to nurse a hyperactive octopus with claws.

And right around this time they ALSO discover that there are different, interesting body parts in their diaper and may react to the sudden “access” with great enthusiasm. (While you stand there and cringe because DUDE BE GENTLE YOU’LL NEED THAT PART INTACT SOMEDAY.)

(ALSO LET ME WIPE YOUR BUTT FIRST LET ME WIPE YOUR BUTT FIRST LET…aw, man. Too late.)

Anyway, it’s a phase and it will pass. Her fine motor skills will mature and she’ll gain better control over her hands and make the cause/effect connection between her nails and self-inflicted pain. It’ll be awhile longer before she figures out that she’s hurting YOU, but at least she won’t be sporting giant red scratches across her face all the time.

In the meantime, do your best to keep her nails trimmed and filed. Clipping alone usually leaves sharp edges, so buff them IF YOU CAN, while she’s asleep or strapped in her carseat. (I have also been known to simply bite ’em off, since my babies were always sticking their hands in my mouth during this phase anyway.) You may also want to try getting some baby mittens/hand covers for when she’s teething, or put her in sleepers at night with the fold-over-hand-style sleeves. Though if she needs her hands for other self-soothing techniques (thumbsucking, re-inserting pacifiers, touching a lovey, etc.), the resulting drama of having her discover she is thwarted might not be worth saving her from the occasional scratch. (Noah and Ike tolerated the hand covers okay, but Ezra sucked his thumb so noooooothankyou.)

During nursing, I usually simply HELD ONTO the other grabby/pinchy hand (even while the baby helicoptered it around and tried to break free). Or I draped a burp rag or blankie over my chest for him to yank and twist and abuse instead of my flesh. If there’s something specific and super-painful that she does, like breaking skin or hair pulling, you can treat it like you would biting. Pull off, say no calmly yet firmly, then resume. If it happens a second time, the session is over.

One last thought, now that I’ve been all, “IT’S A PHASE WHATEVER” blase about it…if you do notice that her scratching is increasingly directed at her own skin (rather than the general all-honey-badger, all-the-time sort that I am pretty sure you’re describing), it is entirely possible that she is, in fact, ITCHY. Like from a skin allergy, eczema or yeast infection. Have you changed detergents or skin products recently? Added a new solid food that coincided with the increased scratching? Are her girly parts looking red or cracked and dry? If so, then there MIGHT be an underlying, non-developmental reason for her frantic scratching.

If not, well, this too shall pass. And be replaced with many new and glorious other habits — a failure to understand gravity! an obsession with stairs! a fixation on power cords! etc. — that can result in self-inflicted injuries. Yay babies!

 

Photo source: Comstock/ Thinkstock

Published July 9, 2012. Last updated October 29, 2017.
Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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