Babies Rub Their Faces

Why Babies Rub Their Faces: Fascinating Explanations

Babies do weird things sometimes. It could be tight grips around your fingers, excessive hiccups, or startling jerky movements. And while these odd behaviors can sometimes be attributed to personality preferences and quirks, most times, that’s not the case. There are reasons (whether scientific or innate human behavior) that make babies act in a particular way or do the things they do.

Newborns, in particular, can cry in their sleep, produce head-scratches, like explosive bowel movements, or rub themselves on everything, including you. As your little munchkin rubs their face on you, you might wonder, “Why does my baby rub their face on me?” Tune in to learn the various reasons to make your little one rub their face on you.

Babies Rub Their Faces

Reasons Why Your Baby Rub Their Face On You

Rooting Reflex

The most possible reason why your kid rubs their face on you is due to the rooting reflex. The rooting reflex is an involuntary primitive motor reflex newborns have that signals they’re hungry. According to Dr. Laura Sinai, M.D., a board-certified pediatrician with Pediatrics At Home, this reflex helps them find the nipple when it’s time to eat. When your child rubs their head from side to side on your body, that could mean they’re hungry and looking for a nipple.

Note that the younger the baby, the more likely the rubbing will be. The rooting reflex is present at birth and lasts four to six months. These involuntary reflexes may give way to more sophisticated motor skills if they go extinct.

Sinai further reports that the rooting reflex can also be elicited. And the reflex instinctively initiates whenever you rub the side of your kid’s face, where the baby repositions their body towards that side.

Sign For Sleep

Another reason babies rub their faces on you could be that they are tired and ready for sleep. Young children tend to rub their ears or eyes like adults when they get tired. Dr. Sinai says the same way we as adults rub our faces with our hands when sleepy is the same way babies rub their faces on you out of fatigue.

And if your little one combines rubbing their face with snuggling into a stuffed animal or you, that’s a sign they are ready for some sleep.

Inability To Clear Nose

Your little one can get an itchy nose when exposed to irritants and, as a result, produce extra mucus to try to remove the irritants. In an attempt to remove the excess mucus from the nose, your baby will need to find a way of clearing their nose. And rubbing their face on you is one good way of clearing the nose.

Medical News Today says anything from cigarette smoke to dry air, pollution, viruses, allergies, and more makes babies’ noses scratch or become stuffed up. When this happens, babies rub their faces on their moms to try and relieve the pressure they feel in their noses. Children can adjust the pressure to their liking and find rubbing their faces on their moms an easy way of clearing their noses of irritation.

Self Soothing

Babies may move their heads back and forth when trying to self-soothe. So, if you see your little one rubbing their face with no other actions, that could mean they are learning to self-soothe.

According to Pathways, babies can self-soothe when they are about six months old. They often do this by rubbing their faces on their mothers to comfort themselves. This is the same as why they breastfeed when not hungry to self-soothe and comfort themselves when the surrounding environment is uncomfortable, maybe due to separation anxiety or other reasons.

General Itchiness

General itchiness can be another reason your baby rubs its face on you. This is more common if your little one hasn’t developed motor skills and coordination.

Young infants don’t have complete control of their hands and could be wiping their boogers on, scratching an itch on their faces. Many babies lay in cribs and rub the back of their heads, scratching them. And if they do the same on you, it’s just the same thing; finding a nice surface to rub their itchy face.

The 2017 research on the maturation of motor activities found that newborns gain some control over their hands from 3 and 4 months, however the actions they perform are not yet highly refined. They can’t fully control their hands or get them to the right place until they are 9-12 months. Thus, they choose you as the best vehicle to soothe their itchiness.

Getting Close To Moms Smell

Your little one may rub their face on you because they innately want to get close to your natural smell. Studies indicate that pheromone-like chemical signals play a crucial role in offspring identifying and recognizing their mothers.

Your baby may be trying to get a good whiff of mom because that’s the right place for them. Other animals in the kingdom Animalia use smell to ensure they’re with the right mom or baby, the same as humans.

According to Dr. Jessica Madden, M.D., a pediatrician, and neonatologist with University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, babies develop their sense of smell early during pregnancy. They take in their mother’s scent through the amniotic fluid as their initial experience of smell.

This explains why babies find the right place to go when doing their newborn crawl and maybe rub their faces all over their parents.

Babies Rub Their Faces


At the end of the day, there are many reasons why your baby rubs their face on you. It’s possible that your infant is either weary and ready for sleep or hungry and needs to be fed.
They could also be trying to soothe themselves or are just itchy and looking for an excellent place to scratch their faces.

Lastly, your baby may want to get your smell to be sure they’re in the right place, especially when worried or in an uncomfortable situation. These behaviors are natural and might be a clue of what your baby needs at the time – even if that feels like a baby goat butting you with its sweet head.