As a new parent, you probably expect your baby to have some weird behaviors.
But you likely don’t anticipate that they will start vigorously rubbing their face back and forth on their mattress.
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While this can look concerning, try not to worry too much.
In most cases, it’s perfectly harmless. Infact, face rubbing is actually very common in infants.
In this post, I’ll talk about why your baby keeps rubbing face into mattress, when to be concerned and what you can do about it.
Why Baby Keeps Rubbing Face Into Mattress
Like I said, this behavior is very common in infants and has a few possible explanations.
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Here are some main reasons why your baby keeps rubbing face into mattress:
Exploring Textures and Sensations
During the first few months of life, babies begin relying more on their senses to explore their environment. They use sight, sound, taste and especially touch to understand the world around them.
Rubbing their cheeks and hands along surfaces allows them to take in new textures and materials.
The woven fabric, stitching seams, and padding of the mattress all provide different input for your baby.
They are wired to seek out these sensations, intrigued by the variations in softness, roughness, vibration, temperature and more.
Rubbing along the mattress likely feels pleasantly stimulating. This early sensory play is key to their development and growth.
As their senses mature, your baby will become less interested in rubbing along the mattress textures.
Rubbing their face on a mattress in repetitive motion can have a soothing effect.
Parents often rock, massage, or bounce their little ones to calm and comfort them. Pressing their face into the mattress may be your baby’s discovered technique for self-relaxation.
The rhythmic pressure and sensation likely releases tension, just like rocking in a chair or sucking a thumb.
When your baby is overstimulated, frustrated, or fighting sleep, they may instinctively rub their face to self-soothe.
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Seeking Relief From Teething
Around 3-9 months of age, your baby will start teething as their first teeth emerge.
These new pearly whites have to push through swollen, tender gums that can be very uncomfortable.
Not surprisingly, babies seek relief through chewing and rubbing.
Pressing gums and cheeks into the mattress may provide a massage-like comfort to your teething little one. The pressure on their aching gums can temporarily ease the soreness.
You’ll often see teething babies gnaw on crib rails or bedding too.
Fighting Off Sleep
Some babies rub their face into bedding to help fight off sleep. The stimulation keeps them awake and delays nap time.
If you think that this is the case, gently intervening and putting them down to sleep may help.
What To Do If Baby Keeps Rubbing Face Into Mattress
While baby face rubbing usually outgrows on its own, here are some tips to curb the behavior if it’s too much and needed:
Provide Sensory Input in Other Ways
One option is to provide sensory input for your baby in other, safer ways.
You can add different textured toys or objects to the crib that they can explore during playtime, like soft blankets, rattles, and rubber teethers.
This allows them to rub and feel different textures without using the mattress.
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Try Pacifiers for Self-Soothing
You can also try introducing pacifiers when your baby seems to want soothing or to suck.
The sucking motion and having something in their mouth may satisfy their need to rub their face on the mattress.
Offer the pacifier when you notice signs of frustration like crying or face rubbing.
Over time, they will stop rubbing their head and stick to sucking the pacifier as a self-soothing technique.
Ease Teething Discomfort
If your baby keeps rubbing face into mattress because of teething, gently rub cold teething toys on swollen gums to ease any discomfort.
Chilled rubber teethers or even wet washcloths from the refrigerator can provide relief for sore gums.
This will stop your baby from rubbing their gums on the mattress.
But just be sure to sanitize any teething objects regularly!
Stick To A Nap Schedule
Finally, sticking to a consistent nap schedule may help prevent the overtiredness and frustration that sometimes lead to face rubbing.
Try to identify signs of sleepiness like yawning, eye rubbing, or fussiness and then put your baby down to nap.
A reliable sleep routine can head off fussy behaviors.
When To Be Concerned
Most cases of face rubbing are harmless habits that will disappear as your baby grows. But contact your pediatrician if:
- The vigorous rubbing leads to skin irritation, redness or sores.
- It occurs frequently through the night, interrupting sleep.
- Your baby seems distressed or rubs hard enough to cause self-harm.
- Other symptoms accompany the rubbing like fever, vomiting or diarrhea.
With patience and attentiveness, you can get through this phase!
Remember that the behavior is temporary. But stay alert for patterns and don’t hesitate to ask your pediatrician for advice.
Your little one will outgrow the mattress nuzzling sooner than you know it!