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My little girl about 3 months old and she already mouths quite frequently on her hands. Should we try to discourage this behavior now (by pulling her hand away when we find her doing it), or wait till she is older?

If we should wait, how will we know that she is ready?

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are you using a dummy/pacifier? – Jacob Apr 7 '11 at 10:47
@Jacob no, she won't use one. – C. Ross Apr 7 '11 at 12:04
Not using a pacifier is not a problem in itself. Not all children want pacifiers. My son (now 18 months old) uses one, but he has long periods when he doesn't. – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 7 '11 at 13:11
@torbengb pacifiers are as much for the parents as the child, maybe more :-). – C. Ross Apr 7 '11 at 13:13
Why is this a problem? It's perfectly natural for babies to suck their hands or toes. – JBRWilkinson Apr 9 '11 at 11:42
up vote 11 down vote accepted

This is typical infant behavior. Keep in mind infants typically don't know what their hands are doing, that they can control them, or that they are even part of their own body. (My 5 month old son still wakes himself in the night, by whacking himself in the face -- he thinks someone else is doing it! I have to tightly wrap him in a blanket, to jeep his hands away.) Be sure to keep her fingernails filed down, so she doesn't hurt herself. My first two kids hated pacifiers, but my 5 month old likes them. See if she will peter a pacifier to her hand.

Wen you're ready to stop the habit (probably in about a year), simply rub the cut end of an artichoke stem on the offending hand. Raw artichoke tastes AWFUL. The bad taste will stay on her hand (and in her mouth) for some time, doesn't stain, is a natural, and won't cause a rash or allergic reaction. Most kids try it only once or twice, before they get the clue that putting a hand in their mouth isn't a great experience.

If the behavior persists, wait until she is old enough to learn to stop. 18-24 months old should be old enough -- girls are pretty smart and learn fast at a younger age.

I assume this is your first child. Don't spoil her, even though you'll want to!

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+1 for the practical artichoke tip – Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 8 '11 at 7:05
A chew toy is perhaps a little kinder than raw artichoke :-) – JBRWilkinson Apr 9 '11 at 11:43

I'd let her do it at least until she can deliberately grab other objects to suck on instead. The only thing you should check is that the skin of the hands don't get irritated from being moist all the time, and keep the nails short (though infant nails usually don't need to be clipped because they're so soft in the first place). If moist hand skin becomes an issue, put some soft mittens on her hands and replace them regularly throughout the day.

Infants go through an oral phase, where they put everything into the mouth. The reason is that the most sensitive body part of an infant are the lips. This is no big surprise, as infants can't yet deliberately move their limbs very well or touch things with their fingers. Since she can't yet grab objects, the hands are the easiest "object" to use.

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I agree with the comment that the behavior is typical. I have a 4 month old who eats her hand.
I will helps her immensely with her teething. I can see her rubbing her gums because her little teeth are starting to push through. If its not her hand its going to town on some toy (I dont think the pacifier provides enough resistance so she's weening herself off of those).

Totally off topic, but, I read that offering your own fingers to them can help at this stage. Its true...she goes nuts and tries to chomp our fingers off (very funny). Basically she just likes the way it feels on sore gums.

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From my own personal experience, I don't think you need to force the issue. Your child should eventually stop on her own, although when that happens will vary. I sucked my thumb as a child and didn't actually stop until I was about 9, but there was no outside influence or push. I just plain stopped one day. My cousin did the same, although I'm pretty positive he stopped a lot sooner than I did.

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totlaly agree you should stop this behaviour before it even starts. you dont need medical professional advice, when you have seen the aftermath as i have. blisters, broken skin, irritation, not to mention the germs! its a filthy habit forming problem that should be stopped from day 1. you can wrap infants arms up so they cannot suck on their hands at all. works really well for mine. give them a dummy for soothing. no need to suck on hands at all. people who allow their children to do this are lazy and just ignorant. they blow it all off to "thats normal" no. its not.

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Space Man - Rants like this are not helpful. Please read our How to Answer page for guidance on what we need in a post. – Rory Alsop Jul 21 at 9:53

You really should not let your kids put their hands in their mouth. It causes the hand foot and mouth disease and it's awful. There's no vaccine for it, they get big nasty blisters on, in, and around their mouth and on their hands and feet.

Try to prevent hand sucking by making a pepper nail polish or using something safe that doesn't taste good on their fingers. That will stop them.

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-1 for these reasons: Your statement about Hand-foot-and-mouth disease does not appear to be substantiated by medical sources. Furthermore, we're talking about an infant, not an older child biting their nails that you're trying to stop -- pepper nail polish seems rather scary. – Jeremy Miller Nov 16 '14 at 8:28
You can't stop an infant from putting things in their mouth. Heck...good luck keeping a toddler from doing it. – Aibrean Nov 18 '14 at 20:30

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