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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.

(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.)


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

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


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

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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  • Amie

    July 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    My 6 month-old is all busy hands too. She has been since before birth. I swear once she went head-down in the womb I could feel her little fingers tickling me half the night. I think she’s destined to be a pianist. Or something.

  • David

    July 9, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    My daughter is 10 months old and up until a month ago was very into itching everything. She rubbed at her hairline, dug into her ears and of course attack momma and daddy’s arms. Beast feeding was an adventure as my wife would randomly yell out as Baby Manni would practice a ‘titty twister’ or a ‘purple nurple’. But I think she preferred that to biting with baby razor blade teeth.

    We made sure that she was bathed regularly and lotioned or baby oiled up to keep her moist and comfortable. Sometimes it was the clothes we were wearing that bugged her. Of course the detergent you’re using may play a factor. As a cloth diaper dad I tend to wash any questionable thing in Charlies Soap just to make sure but that’s just me.

    Also make sure those nails are trimmed because wow can they slice flesh quickly.

  • Olivia

    July 9, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    A nursing necklace or giving her a toy to hold might also occupy her hands during nursing and diaper changes.

    • Priscilla

      April 17, 2015 at 7:24 pm

      Oh man, I think we all have experienced the scratching during nursing…not fun!  Since my boy liked having his arms free, I could not just swaddle him to nurse him.  My lifesaver with this was the Zipadee-Zip (, because even though his arms were loose inside, he could not scratch me.  Yay for great inventions! 🙂
      He is 18 months now…I still struggle with the diaper changes :/

  • Tari

    July 10, 2012 at 4:38 am

    Oh my, YES! This is our house too. It has gotten less grabby as we approach the first birthday-so there is hope. Now if I could only figure out why my armpit is so attractive to DD-apparently it is the new lovey.

    • Maggie

      July 15, 2012 at 6:59 am

      Yeah, my first was like that, the armpit was the most soothing wonderful lovey, nothing else would do. As long as she could tuck her little fingers in there, she was peaceful and happy. And I let her, because THEN SHE WENT TO SLEEP but in the long run I should have nipped that little habit in the bud I had an awful time trying to get her to sleep without me once we were moving her to her own bed. (Picture me kneeling by the bed while the little hand reaches out my armpit and me redirecting it every 2 minutes for HOURS ON END) and to this day (she’s 5!) she sleeps with her hand tucked in her own armpit. A blanket or teddy would have been way easier.

  • Jamy

    July 10, 2012 at 4:41 am

    Ooooo, the pinching of the back of the arm hurts sooo bad!

  • Autumn

    July 10, 2012 at 7:00 pm

    My 10 month old goes through phases like that.  Currently its either pinching the boob during a meal or trying to grab the strap from my nursing cami.  Or trying to grab her “baby bits” during a diaper change.  On the diaper change front, we keep some easily sanitizable toys for her to occupy her hands.  She really likes the fisher price pop beads.  She sticks them on her fingers and smacks the wall, but it keeps the lower half still.  As far as boob abuse goes, I let her grab my finger and tell her “eat nice” and if she keeps it up, feeding is over.  She’s getting the message sloooooowly.  

  • Lorraine

    July 27, 2014 at 1:11 am

    My little boy is the same, however I know where it has come from. He is six months, and I occasionally put him in his Jumperoo bouncer. It has a lizard toy in an oval ball on an axis which he spins back and forth by flicking his hand. I believe he finds this soothing so has gained it as a habit, where he does it on me/his nappy/anything else when he wants to soothe himself, although I think he would have done a hand movement anyway, even without the bouncer, but this specific one stuck. Nappies changes (pooey ones) are an eventful time! I have to lay a baby wipe over his ‘parts’ so I have an extra moment to wipe other bits, but he soon grabs it anyway. Fun times!

  • Joy

    April 10, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    I have also found that covering my daughter with ointment and putting her in a sleeping suit helps to relieve her from scratching herself. And for sleeping suits, I personally like the Zipadee-Zip because it covers her hands so she doesn’t end up scratching herself.