Baby language is sometimes difficult to understand since they are unable to use words to communicate with you. They do have other ways of telling you what they want and need, but you must pay attention to the body language and cries of your child. Babies have different types of cries for hen; they are hungry, sad, tired, or in pain. They also move their hands differently for each of these emotions. They may put hands in their mouth when hungry or pull on their ear if it hurts. If your baby is rubbing or pulling at her ear, there are several reasons for this. Here are the top five issues she could be having when rubbing her ear.
Your Baby May Be Tired
Many babies do not like to miss anything, so when they are tired, they may try to move around, make noises, or get your attention to stay awake. (https://raisingchildren.net.au/guides/a-z-health-reference/ear-tugging) Tugging her ears will give your baby something to do to entertain herself. She may also mess with her feet, hands, or hair. These actions can be comforting to children, and the stimulation will give them away to keep from falling asleep. It is good to take note of your child’s routine. You may find the ear rubbing you are noticing is part of how she self-soothes or that she just needs a nap.
Just Found Her Ears, Curious
Babies are beginning to learn about the world outside the womb. In their exploration, they will begin to discover their body part and yours. You may notice your baby staring at you or touch your face, nose, or ears. Touch is one of the ways that babies take in their world and learn. They will begin to touch their body parts too. Body parts that are easy to discover are the fingers, toes, penis, and ears. When a baby discovers new things, they will spend time exploring these parts to learn more about what they do and how they work. When they begin rubbing the ears, it can be a problematic time because most parents begin to fear their baby may have an ear infection. Before worrying yourself, watch for signs of pain such as fever, crying, or sleep disruption. Ears are fun, let them explore.
Teething Can Be Confused With Illness
Teething is a tough time for babies and parents. Babies do not understand why they are in pain, and parents are not always sure what is causing their child to be uncomfortable. Teething is often associated with colds because the systems are very similar. Some of the symptoms of teething are fever, irritability, coughing, and rubbing ears. (https://www.chla.org/blog/rn-remedies/your-infant-teething-know-the-signs-and-symptoms) If you notice these symptoms in your baby, try to stay calm and note the age of your child. Teething is different for every child, but it is not unusual to begin around the sixth-month mark. If your baby is rubbing her ears and you notice red or swollen gums or your baby wants to chew on everything, it could be teething time.
She May Have a Cold
It is not uncommon for babies to get a cold, especially if they are in daycare. Babies are still developing immunities to illness that older children and adults already have. If your baby is rubbing her ears, it could be a sign of a cold. If there is a mouth or throat irritation, babies tend to rub or pull at their ears. A baby with a cold will most likely have a stuffy nose, low fever, cough, and watery eyes. They may also have low appetites or problems sleeping. Most cold will pass within a week or two, but if the symptoms get worse or last longer, you need to seek medical attention.
Ear Infections Are Painful
Colds can lead to ear infections in babies. When fluids get into the middle ear, it can cause infections that will result in painful swelling and redness of the ear. (https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/ear-infection/features/child-ear-infection#1) Most ear infection comes with a fever and rubbing of the ear. If you see any drainage from the ear or if your baby has sleeping, you will want to pay close attention. Signs of ear infections also include ear tugging, not eating, or upset stomach. You will notice your baby seems to be uncomfortable or crying more. This needs to be addressed with your child’s doctor. If untreated, an ear infection can cause more problems for your baby.
When To Call the Doctor
If you notice your child has been rubbing or pulling at her ear, you may want to make a few other observations before calling the doctor. Some of the information your doctor may want to know includes:
- Has your baby been crying more or seem to be in pain?
- Is your baby sleeping more than usual, or does she frequently wake up touching her ear?
- Has she had a cough or a fever?
- Have you noticed any drainage from her ear?
- Do you notice your baby touching one ear more than the other?
If you have concern over your baby’s health, it is best to call your doctor. Your doctor will advise you or if he/she thinks your baby needs to be seen. If you think it is an emergency, you should immediately seek medical assistance.
If your baby is rubbing her ears, it may not be anything to worry about. This is a normal stage that all children go through as they begin the process of learning about their bodies. Of course, you want to monitor any new changes your baby does and watch for symptoms of pain or irritability. Ear rubbing may be no big deal, but it can also be a sign of a cold or ear infection. If your baby seems uncomfortable or if you are not sure why your baby is rubbing or tugging at her ears, talk to your doctor. It never hurts to call the doctor, and if it easies your mind, it is worth your time.