I've read that this can happen during teething, and she is now 4 months. Thing is, she doesn't have any teeth and isn't really showing the signs in full force yet. She's not in any discomfort than I can perceive so I doubt it's an ear infection. She just swats at her ear and sometimes she pushes on it...and it's usually around feeding time.

5 Answers 5


Two of my five kids did this, the others pulled or squeezed various other things at different ages. With the ear thing in particular, I think that it is just that the ear/nose/throat are all connected, so they may be feeling some pressure as they swallow and they touch the point where they perceive it.

Kids have weird habits that they get into, then they go away all of the sudden. I'm not a doctor, but... I wouldn't worry about it.

  • To worry, or not to worry...this is the question. :) Yeah, I'm trying to blow this one off. It just stinks when they can't talk and you're a clueless parent. Thanks for the perspective.
    – Bob
    Mar 31, 2011 at 1:54
  • Our kid had an ear infection. But he was not just touching his ears when he was eating.
    – Barfieldmv
    May 3, 2011 at 13:32

Our son did that some times at around that age... the key observation was that when he was doing it during nursing, his ear was at the same level as his mouth or below it. The theory was that he was getting liquid seeping along his sinuses and heading for his ear and he could "hear", or at least feel, it. We adjusted the way he was held while nursing so that his head was more "upright" and the ears were above the mouth and it went away. The main concern we had was his sharp little nails were scratching the area just infront of his ear all up. (Those cutesy little mitten things they sell at the stores in the baby areas... yeah... pretty but useless.)

  • I'll pay attention to what position she's in. The whole sinus connection thing seems plausible, especially since they pretty intensely at that age (sucking every bit of milk). Thanks!
    – Bob
    Mar 31, 2011 at 1:52

My sons 8 months old & he tugs & swats at his ears when he is tired. When brought up to his pediatrician he was then examined for signs of infection but non found. Bringing it up to child's pediatrician to make sure it's nothing serious is a good idea. Every child is different so the meaning of the action of course can be different for other children. For my son it's just a habit especially when he is fighting his sleep.

  • 1
    The same with our son. And after I observed this at him I realized that unknowingly I do too :-)
    – Zutroy
    Jan 19, 2017 at 7:13
  • Kids that young see the doctor fairly frequently. Definitely ask when you are visiting your doctor -- even if that is a month from now. Go with your instincts. I think parents are often better at knowing than they give themselves credit for -- if you are concerned -- do something. I suggest keeping a journal. Anything medical gets a different colour -- then you can look back for trends and to see if you've been concerned for a week or ten days. You can journal other stuff, too. Now your child's favourite thing is...
    – WRX
    Jan 19, 2017 at 20:27

Myself and my two brothers, according to my parents, all tugged our ears when we were tired.

I actually still find myself doing it once in a while if I'm exhausted and I've caught my niece and nephews exhibiting the same behavior. IMO, it's a telltale sign that they're doneski : T-minus 30 min until complete meltdown; get the story book out or you'll regret it.

This thread at ask.metafilter.com, agrees with all the answers here, including this one. Basically, if they don't have an ear infection or problems with their Eustachian tubes, then they're just tired.

Although their link is dead in that post, a user says: I had always heard that there is a specific "calming" nerve in the ear that helps one to relax when stimulated.

Try it yourself. It feels good, and soon you'll want a nap (you remember naps, right? That thing we all want to do after a large meal ;).


Maybe she is playing with the sound of chewing. We adults ignore it; but chewing is quite loud for your own ears if you pay attention. By pulling, the sound changes.

You will know when your child have an ear infection, it will be pretty obvious.

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