Why Do Babies Rub Their Eyes?

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Why Does Your Baby Rub Her Eyes?

Babies usually rub their eyes when they are tired and sleepy. But dry eyes, an eye infection, or a foreign object such as an eyelash in the eye can also make a baby rub her eyes. Another reason might be that she’s just learning how her eyes respond to being rubbed and is exploring!

There’s nothing more adorable than watching a baby rub her eyes with her tiny little fists. But is this one of those quaint things babies do or could she be trying to tell you something? Let’s take a look at some of the reasons a baby rubs her eyes.

Reasons Why Your Baby Rub Her Eyes

1. She’s Tired

The most common reason babies rub their eyes – they’re just sleepy! Much like when you rub and soothe sore muscles, your baby tries to relieve tired muscles around her eyes by rubbing them. Yawning, getting cranky, or crying are other signs that your baby is tired and sleepy.1

It helps to learn the signals that your baby is tired. You can then settle her before she becomes overtired as babies tend to be harder to settle then. Try to establish a sleep schedule as early as possible. A familiar soothing routine, such as spending a little time cuddling, rocking, or listening to calming music, can be helpful. This lets your baby know that it’s time to go to sleep.2 3

2. Her Eyes Are Dry

Your baby may also rub her eyes if they feel dry. Rubbing them promotes tearing, which in turn moistens dry eyes. Her eyes may get dry if she’s been up for a while. This is because the protective film of tears can start to dry up when it is exposed to air for a long period.

3. She’s Learning About Her Body

Remember, everything is new to your baby. She’s still learning how her body responds and functions. Those patterns and lights that you see when you rub your closed eyes? That can be a fascinating experience to your baby who is experimenting and familiarizing herself with her body.

4. There’s Something In Her Eye

Your baby may also rub her eyes if there’s something in there irritating them. This might be dust, an eyelash, or dried mucus. Tears and blinking are other signs of a foreign object in her eyes. If your baby gets something in her eyes, first use a wet washcloth to wipe around her eye and face so that nothing else gets in. You can then try to flush out whatever is in her eyes with some clean warm water. Have someone hold your baby’s face up while you do this.

If you can see something stuck in the corner of her eye, a wet clean cloth or cotton swab can be used to remove it. Do see a doctor if you’re not able to get the foreign particle out or symptoms like blinking and tearing do not stop after you’ve taken it out.4 5

5. Her Eyes Are Painful Or Itchy

Another reason for eye rubbing is pain or itching which can sometimes be caused by infection. Other symptoms of an infection may include swollen and reddish eyes, a discharge, or fever. Your baby may also appear distressed and cry if her eyes hurt. It’s best to see a doctor if you suspect that your baby has an eye infection.6

References   [ + ]

1.Warner, Penny. Rock-a-Bye Baby: 200 Ways to Help Baby (and You!) Sleep Better. Chronicle Books, 2010.
2.Good ways to settle babies under six months: a parent’s guide. NSW Government.
3.Bedtime habits for infants and children. National Institutes of Health.
4.Eye – Foreign Body or Object. Seattle Children’s Hospital.
5.Margulis, Jennifer. Why Babies Do That: Baffling Baby Behavior Explained. Willow Creek Press, 2005.
6.Murat, Brian, Stewart, Greg, and John Rea. Do I Need to See the Doctor?: The Home-Treatment Encyclopedia – Written by Medical Doctors – That Lets You Decide. John Wiley & Sons, 2008.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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