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Understanding Baby Scratching Head - Signs, Causes and Prevention

Updated: Aug 14, 2023

Understanding Baby Scratching Head - Signs, Causes and Prevention

As a parent, you’ve likely noticed your little one scratching their head, leaving you concerned and searching for answers. Fear not, for you’re not alone in this quest to understand and soothe your baby’s discomfort. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the common reasons behind baby scratching head, as well as the best practices for prevention and when to seek medical help. So buckle up and get ready to dive into the world of baby scratching head!

Short Summary

  • Common causes of baby head scratching include dry skin, cradle cap, sensitive skin and itchiness.

  • Proper skincare routine with appropriate moisturizing products and regular nail care can help prevent baby head scratching.

  • Distraction techniques and avoiding potential irritants are effective measures for managing itchy or persistent symptoms in babies.

A close-up image of a baby's head with visible scratches, indicating baby scratching head due to eczema or other skin conditions.

Common Reasons for Baby Scratching Head

Before we delve into the solutions, let’s first understand why babies scratch their heads. The usual suspects behind this behavior include:

  • Dry skin

  • Cradle cap

  • Sensitive skin

  • Itchiness

While it is customary for infants to scratch their heads, these four factors can exacerbate the situation, causing distress to both baby and parents. Recognizing the specific cause of your baby’s head scratching can help you address it effectively and bring relief to your little one.

It’s important to note that babies may also rub their heads when they feel the need to scratch, or when they are tired and in need of sleep. Accidental scratches can occur due to the Moro reflex, which causes their nails to jerk towards their face. So let’s now explore each of the common causes in more detail and learn how to tackle them effectively.

Dry Skin

Dry skin is characterized by a loss of moisture, resulting in rough, itchy, flaky, or scaly texture. This condition can be a major contributor to baby head scratching, as itchy skin compels them to seek relief. While scratching alone does not cause bald patches, if the infant tugs their hair or if their hair is delicate and breaks easily, parents may notice bald patches as a result.

To reduce the occurrence of baby head scratching due to dry skin, it’s essential to use mild, hydrating products and limit baths. By maintaining a proper skincare routine and avoiding harsh soaps, you can help alleviate dry skin and minimize your baby’s discomfort.

Cradle Cap

Cradle cap is a common skin condition in young babies, characterized by greasy, scaly areas on the cheeks and scalp. While it is generally harmless, the cradle cap can lead to itchiness and scratching on the baby’s face. Fortunately, cradle cap typically resolves spontaneously within a few months.

To help alleviate the itchiness associated with cradle cap, you can:

  • Gently brush the scalp with a soft and all-natural baby brush set after shampooing

  • Avoid harsh chemicals in shampoos

  • Consider oiling the scalp before brushing to facilitate the removal of scaling

By following these gentle care practices for your baby’s skin, you can help your baby feel more comfortable and reduce the urge to baby scratch, thus preventing child scratching.

Sensitive Skin

Sensitive skin is a prevalent condition in which the skin reacts to various factors, resulting in undesirable sensations such as stinging, burning, and pain. Infants with sensitive skin may experience discomfort and scratch their heads due to their reaction to potential irritants.

To manage sensitive skin and reduce the risk of baby head scratching, it’s important to use hypoallergenic products and avoid potential irritants, such as harsh soaps or strongly scented lotions. By being mindful of the products you use on your baby’s skin, you can help prevent discomfort and the need for them to scratch.


Itchyness can be caused by various elements, such as:

  • Allergies

  • Skin conditions

  • Irritating chemicals

  • Parasites

  • Internal diseases

When baby itching becomes persistent or particularly intense, it may necessitate medical attention.

If your baby’s head scratching is accompanied by severe itchiness or other symptoms, such as:

  • fever

  • fussiness

  • irritability

  • lack of appetite

  • overall difficulty

It’s essential to consult with their doctor. Timely medical intervention can help identify the underlying cause and ensure your baby receives the appropriate care and treatment.

Preventing Baby Head Scratching

A baby with a moisturizer or antiseptic cream on his head

Now that we’ve explored the common reasons for baby head scratching, let’s discuss how to prevent it. Establishing an effective skincare routine and ensuring regular nail care can significantly reduce the likelihood of baby head scratching.

In the following sections, we will delve into these preventive measures in more detail.

Skincare Routine

An appropriate skincare routine for infants should involve:

  • Gentle bathing

  • Employing no-rinse cleansers

  • Moisturizing with emollients or using a moisturizer or antiseptic cream

  • Restricting the use of soap and baby scented skin products

  • Keeping bathtime brief to avoid dryness and irritation.

By implementing a gentle skincare routine with moisturizing products, you can help prevent dryness and itchiness, reducing the likelihood of baby scratching their head. Remember to always use products designed for babies and be attentive to any signs of skin irritation or


Nail Care

One of the most effective ways to prevent accidental scratches and injuries is to keep your baby’s nails short and smooth. Ideally, you should trim or file their baby nails when they are either sleeping or feeding, as they are likely to be more relaxed during these times.

If using nail clippers or scissors makes you nervous, consider filing their nails as an alternative. Additionally, try to keep your baby calm and distracted while you attend to their nails, ensuring a stress-free experience for both of you.

When to Seek Medical Help

While most cases of baby head scratching can be managed with proper care and attention, there are situations when it’s necessary to seek medical help. If the scratching persists, worsens, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or irritability, it’s important to consult with their doctor.

Timely medical intervention can help identify any underlying issues that may require treatment, such as eczema or allergies. Always be vigilant and attentive to your baby’s needs, and do not hesitate to seek professional advice if you’re concerned about their well-being.

Baby Scratching Head While Sleeping

Another common scenario that leaves parents bewildered is when their baby scratches their head while sleeping. In this section, we will explore how creating a comfortable sleep environment and using swaddling techniques can help prevent accidental scratches during sleep.

Creating a comfortable sleep environment is key to preventing accidental scratches. Make sure the baby’s crib is safe.

Sleep Environment

Ensuring a comfortable sleep environment is crucial to prevent your baby from scratching their head during sleep. This means using soft, breathable bedding and maintaining an appropriate room temperature. A conducive sleep environment can help your baby relax and sleep soundly, reducing the need for them to scratch.

Additionally, make sure the sleep environment is dark, cool, and devoid of soft surfaces or items that may pose a choking hazard. By creating a safe and comfortable sleep environment, you can minimize the chances of your baby scratching their head while they sleep.


Swaddling is a technique of wrapping a baby in a blanket to restrict their movements, which can help prevent baby head scratching during sleep by keeping their arms secure and limiting their movements. Proper swaddling can provide your baby with a sense of security and comfort, allowing them to sleep more peacefully.

There are various swaddle options available for purchase, so choose one that best suits your baby’s needs and preferences. Always ensure that the swaddle is not too tight or too loose, and consult with a healthcare professional if you’re unsure about swaddling techniques.

Baby Scratching Head During Feeding

Head scratching during feeding can be particularly distressing for parents, as it may interfere with the feeding process and cause discomfort for the baby. In some cases, baby rubbing head might be an additional concern for parents, especially if it leads to marks on the baby’s face.

In this section, we will discuss how to manage this issue by using distraction techniques and identifying potential irritants in their environment.

Distraction Techniques

Distraction techniques can be highly effective in preventing your baby from scratching their head during feeding. By engaging their attention with toys, music, singing, or simply holding their hand, you can help them focus on feeding rather than scratching.

There are numerous distraction techniques to choose from, so experiment with different options to find what works best for your baby. Remember, the goal is to create a positive and enjoyable feeding experience for both you and your little one.

Identifying Potential Irritants

Another important aspect of preventing baby head scratching during feeding is identifying potential irritants that may be causing discomfort or itchiness. Common irritants include allergens in detergents, lotions, or even certain foods.

By being aware of these potential irritants and taking measures to avoid or minimize their impact, you can help reduce itchiness and scratching during feeding. Always be attentive to your baby’s needs and reactions to different products or foods, and adjust your approach accordingly.

Long-Term Effects of Baby Head Scratching

While baby head scratching is a common concern for parents, it’s reassuring to know that the long-term effects are generally minimal. However, excessive scratching or hair pulling can lead to temporary bald patches or scarring. By adopting proper care and monitoring your baby’s scratching behavior, you can help prevent these issues and ensure their well-being.

If your infant does develop bald patches from scratch, consult resources on promoting healthy hair growth and restoring the health of your baby’s hair and scalp. Remember, the key to preventing long-term effects lies in diligent care and attention to your baby’s needs.


In conclusion, baby head scratching is a common phenomenon that can be effectively managed with proper care, attention, and understanding of its underlying causes. By addressing dry skin, cradle cap, sensitive skin, and itchiness, as well as establishing a proper skincare routine, maintaining regular nail care, and creating a comfortable sleep environment, you can help your baby feel more at ease and significantly reduce the occurrence of head scratching. Always be attentive to your baby’s needs and consult with a healthcare professional if you’re concerned about their well-being. Together, you can help your little one enjoy a happy, healthy, and scratch-free childhood!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does my baby scratch her head and pull her hair?

Baby’s hair-pulling is a common self-soothing mechanism, starting from around six months old as a habit and often being more common in girls than boys. It can also be due to cradle cap, eczema, head lice, a sweat or heat rash, increased self-awareness, or a compulsive disorder such as trichotillomania.

Why does my baby scratch his head and face at night?

Head and face scratching in babies is a normal way of exploring and self-soothing, so don’t worry too much.

What are the main causes of baby head scratching?

The most common causes of baby head scratching are dry skin, cradle cap, sensitive skin, and itchiness.

How can I prevent my baby from scratching their head while sleeping?

To prevent your baby from scratching their head while sleeping, create a comfortable sleep environment with soft bedding and use swaddling techniques. Swaddling is a technique that involves wrapping the baby in a blanket or cloth to keep them warm and secure. It can help reduce the risk of SIDS and can help babies sleep better. It also helps to prevent the disease.

When should I seek medical help for my baby's head scratching?

If your baby’s head scratching persists, worsens, or is accompanied by other symptoms such as fever or irritability, you should seek medical help.

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