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Why Is My Newborn Sucking Their Hands?

For babies, sucking is instinctual. It’s a natural reflex that develops in the womb. After all, for the first months of life, this action alone is what helps baby get fed. While thumb sucking is a widely accepted baby pastime, a newborn sucking hands or fingers rather than their thumb may have you wondering if this is ok.

We explore the possible reasons your baby might be sucking on their hands or fingers and what you can do to help.

Reasons newborns suck their hands while sleeping

There are a number of reasons that a newborn may suck on their hands or fingers while sleeping or just prior to sleeping. Observing when and how frequently your baby is sucking on their hands will help you better understand the reasons why. Some of the most common reasons babies suck on their hand are:


Self-soothing techniques are calming or comforting behaviours that babies use to help regulate their emotions. Your baby may associate a sucking action with comfort, like when they’re being fed. It is the time when your baby’s needs are being met, they are generally close to a loved one and they feel safe and secure. So, when a baby is upset, overtired or struggling to fall asleep they may use sucking as a self-soothing technique.

In the absence of a dummy or pacifier, your baby may look for other things to suck on, namely their hands. Your newborn sucking a hand as a self-soothing technique is common and generally not a cause for concern, though It’s important to make sure your baby’s hands are clean.

Self-soothing can also be an important step in the transition to independent sleep.


A newborn sucking on hands can be a hunger cue. Most hunger cues involved the mouth and/or a sucking action. If you notice your baby constantly sucking on their hand, rather than just prior to sleep, it’s important to make sure they are not hungry, or still hungry.

A baby who is habitually sucking their hand may not being getting enough nutrients. If you are concerned that this may be the case, particularly if baby has just been fed, consult with your GP, child health nurse or paediatrician.


Teething can be a painful time for your little one. Most babies begin teething between 4-7 months. Your baby may be trying to gnaw on anything that can get their hands on. If not a teething object, their hands themselves! Having something to chew, rub their gums on or suck can assist in relieving teething pain and help baby’s new teeth cut through.

Ensure sure you provide your baby with access to a range of teething toys with various textures during this time to help them through this process and help ease the pain rather than baby having to rely on their hands for relief.

Transition to sleep

When learning how to sleep on their own, babies may require some assistance. If your baby doesn’t use a pacifier or dummy, they may likely look for alternatives such as sucking on hands or fingers. If your baby is looking to suck their hands for comfort, it may be time to transition away from a traditional swaddle and use a Swaddle Up instead. Swaddle Ups are unique as they allow baby access to their hands while keeping them feeling cosy and secure for sleep.

Ensure your Swaddle Up is clean and you have spares on hand if your baby is tending to suck on their hand to transition to sleep.

Should babies suck on their hands while sleeping?

As long as your baby’s hands are clean, there is nothing inherently wrong with them sucking on their hands or fingers as a self-soothing technique or to help settle themselves to sleep. Most babies will grow out of this habit on their own.

The risks of hand-sucking

Hand-sucking is generally not considered a risky behaviour provided:

  • Your baby’s hands are clean and free from potential germs or bacteria
  • Baby’s surrounding environment is clear and free from any small objects
  • Baby is not in medical distress or pain
  • Baby is not lacking nutrients

If hand sucking was to extend past the age of 4 years old, there may be a risk to oral development. Consult with your GP or dentist if you have concerns about oral health.

When do babies stop hand-sucking?

Most babies will stop hand sucking on their own depending on their developmental stage. When children are eating and communicating more independently, the need for hand sucking will generally be negated.

Some children may continue to use hand sucking or thumb sucking to self-soothe well into preschool, but most children will naturally stop this behaviour between 2-4 years old.

How to deal with hand-sucking


Hand sucking is a natural behaviour. To support your baby during this developmental stage, our Swaddle Up is an effective choice for sleep, especially if your baby is still using a swaddle, as it allows your baby to still use their hands for self-soothing while ensuring there is no loose fabric in the cot.

If your child continues to suck their hands or you are trying to transition your child away from hand sucking, make sure:

  • Your child’s hands are clean
  • Your child is fed and not feeling hungry
  • You have given your baby access to teething toys
  • You have provided an alternative for self-soothing, such as a dummy or pacifier, or perhaps a comforter or toy for older children

It’s perfectly natural for your baby to seek comfort or a way to communicate their needs by sucking their hands. Hand sucking is not usually a cause for concern. If your child is over four years old and you’re worried about their oral development, consult with your GP or dentist.