Do Babies Rub Their Eyes When Teething? Signs and Solutions

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Do Babies Rub Their Eyes When Teething? Signs and Solutions


do babies rub their eyes when teething

Teething is challenging for babies and parents, and it is marked by discomfort and various behaviors. Among these, parents often wonder if eye rubbing is a sign of teething. Babies exhibit many signs during teething, such as drooling, irritability, and gum swelling. Eye rubbing, however, can be puzzling, leaving caregivers questioning its connection to teething.

Understanding why babies rub their eyes is crucial. It can be a sign of tiredness, eye irritation, or even an attempt to self-soothe. But does teething contribute to this behavior? Exploring this question can help parents better navigate their baby’s teething journey and provide effective comfort measures.

This article delves into the relationship between teething and eye rubbing, examining possible reasons behind this behavior. We will also offer practical solutions to ease your baby’s discomfort, ensuring a smoother teething experience for you and your little one.

About teething in babies

Teething is a significant milestone in a baby’s development, typically starting around 6 months, though it can vary widely. During this period, a baby’s first teeth, usually the lower front teeth, emerge through the gums. This process can cause discomfort and lead to various symptoms, such as excessive drooling, gum swelling, irritability, and a tendency to chew on objects. Babies may also experience disrupted sleep patterns and a slight increase in temperature. 

While teething is natural, it can be challenging for babies and parents. Understanding the signs of teething and offering soothing remedies, like teething toys, gentle gum massages, and cool washcloths, can help alleviate discomfort. Parents must remain patient and provide extra comfort and care to support their baby’s transition through this developmental stage.

Read to know more: Do Baby Teeth Have Roots? : Decoding the Mystery

Age Range When Teething Typically Begins

Teething usually begins around 6 months of age, although it can start as early as 3 months or as late as 12 months. The first teeth to emerge are typically the lower front teeth (central incisors), followed by the upper front teeth. By age 3, most children have a complete set of 20 primary teeth.

Physical and Emotional Changes in Babies During Teething

Physical Changes:

  • Swollen Gums: Gums may appear red and swollen as the teeth push through.
  • Drooling: Increased saliva production is standard, sometimes leading to drool rash.
  • Chewing and Biting: Babies may chew on toys, fingers, or other objects to alleviate gum pressure.
  • Rash: Drooling can cause a mouth, chin, and neck rash.
  • Slight Fever: Some babies may experience a mild increase in body temperature.

Emotional Changes:

  • Irritability: Babies may become more fussy and irritable due to gum discomfort.
  • Crying: Increased crying, especially at night, is expected as teething pain disrupts sleep.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Babies may have trouble sleeping or wake up more frequently.
  • Loss of Appetite: Discomfort from teething can lead to a reduced interest in feeding.
  • Clinginess: Babies may seek extra comfort and be more clingy or needy than usual.

Common signs and symptoms of teething

Common signs and symptoms of teething in babies include:

  • Drooling: Increased saliva production, often leading to drool rash around the mouth.
  • Gum Swelling and Tenderness: Red, swollen gums tender to the touch.
  • Chewing and Biting: A tendency to chew on objects, fingers, or toys to relieve gum pressure.
  • Irritability and Fussiness: Increased crankiness and crying due to discomfort.
  • Sleep Disturbances: Difficulty sleeping or waking more frequently at night.
  • Loss of Appetite: Reduced interest in feeding due to gum pain.
  • Ear Pulling or Cheek Rubbing: Babies may tug at their ears or rub their cheeks, referred to as pain from teething.
  • Slight Fever: A mild increase in temperature, though a high fever is not typical.
  • Rash on the Face: A rash around the mouth, chin, or cheeks from excessive drooling.
  • Diarrhea: Slightly looser stools, although this is less common.

Causes of Eye Rubbing in Babies

Causes of Eye Rubbing in Babies

Tiredness and Sleepiness 

Eye rubbing is a common sign that a baby is tired or sleepy. When babies are ready to sleep, they often rub their eyes to self-soothe and signal fatigue. This behavior is a natural response to feeling drowsy and is usually accompanied by other signs of tiredness, such as yawning and fussiness.

Eye Irritation or Discomfort

Babies may rub their eyes if they feel irritation or discomfort. This can be due to dryness, exposure to bright lights, dust, or small foreign particles. Rubbing can provide temporary relief from irritation. Parents should ensure that the baby’s hands are clean to prevent introducing bacteria into the eyes.

Allergies or Infections 

Allergies or infections can also cause eye rubbing. Allergens like pollen, pet dander, or certain foods can cause allergic reactions, leading to itchy and watery eyes. Eye infections, such as conjunctivitis (pink eye), can cause redness, swelling, and discharge, prompting babies to rub their eyes frequently. In such cases, seeking medical advice for appropriate treatment is essential.

Exploring Self-Soothing Behaviors

Babies often discover eye rubbing as a self-soothing behavior. It provides comfort, especially when they are feeling anxious or overstimulated. This repetitive action can help them calm down and manage their emotions. Observing when and how often babies rub their eyes can give parents insights into their self-soothing techniques and overall well-being.

Do Babies Rub their eyes when teething?

Babies may rub their eyes during teething, but this behavior is not directly caused by it. Eye rubbing is generally a sign of tiredness, eye irritation, or an attempt to self-soothe. However, the discomfort and irritability associated with teething can make babies more prone to such behaviors. The pressure from emerging teeth can sometimes lead to sinus discomfort, which might cause babies to rub their eyes and ears. Additionally, teething can disrupt sleep, increasing eye rubbing due to tiredness. While eye rubbing is expected in babies, parents need to monitor for other signs of discomfort or potential eye issues. If the eye rubbing is persistent or accompanied by redness, swelling, or discharge, it’s advisable to consult a pediatrician to rule out any underlying issues.

Is there any connection between Teething and Eye Rubbing? 

There is no direct connection between teething and eye rubbing, but teething can contribute to behaviors that may lead to eye rubbing. Teething causes discomfort and irritability in babies, which can make them more likely to rub their eyes as a self-soothing mechanism. Additionally, the pain from teething can cause general fussiness and disrupted sleep, leading to increased tiredness and, consequently, more eye rubbing.

Another possible indirect connection is the sinus pressure that can accompany teething. As teeth emerge, particularly the molars, they can cause pressure and discomfort in the gums and surrounding areas, including the sinuses. This sinus pressure may lead to babies rubbing their eyes and ears to alleviate the pain.

While eye rubbing is commonly associated with tiredness, eye irritation, or allergies, it can be exacerbated by the discomfort and stress of teething. Parents should observe their baby’s behavior and look for other signs of teething, such as drooling, gum swelling, and increased chewing, to determine if eye rubbing might be related to teething. If there are concerns about persistent eye rubbing or other symptoms, consulting a pediatrician is recommended to rule out any underlying issues.

Differentiating Between Teething and Other Causes of Eye Rubbing

  • Look for Teething Signs: Identify common teething symptoms such as drooling, swollen gums, increased chewing on objects, and irritability. If these symptoms accompany eye rubbing, teething might be the cause.
  • Monitor for Sleepiness: Eye rubbing due to tiredness is often accompanied by other signs of sleepiness, such as yawning, fussiness, and a need for naps. This is a normal behavior unrelated to teething.
  • Check for Eye Irritation: Inspect your baby’s eyes for redness, swelling, or discharge, which could indicate irritation or an infection like conjunctivitis. In these cases, eye rubbing is directly related to the eye condition.
  • Consider Allergies: If your baby has watery, itchy eyes, sneezing, or a runny nose, allergies might be the cause. Eye rubbing due to allergies often coincides with other allergic reactions.
  • Observe Self-Soothing Behaviors: Babies often rub their eyes to self-soothe. If your baby rubs their eyes while calm or during routines like bedtime, it might be a self-soothing habit rather than a sign of teething.
  • Evaluate Overall Behavior: Pay attention to your baby’s overall behavior and health. If your baby shows signs of general discomfort, fever, or other symptoms unrelated to teething, this may indicate another issue.
  • Consult a Pediatrician: If you’re unsure or eye rubbing persists along with other concerning symptoms, consult a pediatrician. They can help determine if teething or another condition is causing the eye rubbing.

How to Soothe Your Teething Baby?

How to Soothe Your Teething Baby?
  • Teething Toys: Offer your baby firm rubber teething rings or toys. Chilling these toys in the refrigerator can provide extra relief.
  • Cold Washcloth: Give your baby a clean washcloth to chew on. The coolness helps numb the gums and alleviate pain.
  • Gum Massage: Gently rub your baby’s gums with a clean finger. The pressure can relieve the discomfort of teething.
  • Chilled Foods: For babies who have started solids, offering cold foods like yogurt or chilled purees can be soothing.
  • Teething Biscuits: Specially designed teething biscuits can be helpful. Make sure they dissolve quickly to prevent choking.
  • Breastfeeding or Bottle Feeding: Sometimes, the sucking action during feeding can provide comfort to a teething baby.
  • Over-the-counter Pain Relief: Consult your pediatrician before giving any medication. If recommended, infant acetaminophen or ibuprofen can reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Teething Gels: Some teething gels are available, but it’s essential to seek advice from a healthcare provider before using them to ensure they are safe and appropriate.
  • Distraction: Engage your baby in gentle play or other activities to distract them from the discomfort.
  • Comfort and Cuddles: Extra cuddles and comfort can help soothe a teething baby, providing reassurance and emotional comfort.

What to Do If Your Baby’s Eyes Are Red and Swollen?

What to Do If Your Baby's Eyes Are Red and Swollen?
  • Assess the Situation: Determine if the redness and swelling appeared suddenly or gradually and if there are any other symptoms, such as discharge, fever, or irritability.
  • Clean the Eyes: Clean your baby’s eyes with a soft, damp cloth. Use warm water and wipe from the inner corner to the outer corner to remove any discharge or debris.
  • Avoid Irritants: Ensure your baby is not exposed to irritants like smoke, dust, or harsh chemicals. Keep the environment clean and free from allergens.
  • Monitor for Allergies: If your baby has other symptoms like sneezing or a runny nose, the eye irritation could be due to allergies. Try to identify and remove any potential allergens.
  • Cool Compress: Apply a cool, damp cloth to your baby’s closed eyes for a few minutes to help reduce swelling and provide comfort.
  • Avoid Eye Rubbing: Prevent your baby from rubbing their eyes, worsening the irritation and swelling. Keep their hands clean and their nails trimmed.
  • Check for Foreign Objects: Gently check for foreign objects in the eye. If you see something, do not try to remove it yourself; seek medical help.
  • Hydrate: Ensure your baby stays well-hydrated, as good hydration can help overall health and recovery.
  • Consult a Pediatrician: If the redness and swelling persist, worsen, or are accompanied by other symptoms like fever, discharge, or severe discomfort, consult a pediatrician. It could be a sign of an eye infection (such as conjunctivitis), allergies, or another issue requiring medical attention.
  • Follow Medical Advice: If your doctor prescribes medication or special care instructions, follow them carefully to ensure a quick recovery and prevent further issues.

When to Seek Medical Advice for Teething Symptoms

  • High Fever: If your baby develops a high fever (above 100.4°F or 38°C), it is unlikely to be caused by teething alone and should be evaluated by a doctor.
  • Severe Diarrhea: While mild changes in stool consistency can occur, severe diarrhea is not typical of teething and warrants medical attention.
  • Persistent Irritability: If your baby is inconsolably fussy or irritable for an extended period, it may indicate something more severe than teething discomfort.
  • Rash or Skin Issues: If your baby develops a widespread rash, especially if it’s not just around the mouth from drooling, seek medical advice.
  • Ear Tugging or Pulling: While some ear pulling can be related to teething, persistent tugging might indicate an ear infection, which requires a doctor’s evaluation.
  • Loss of Appetite: A significant and prolonged decrease in appetite or refusal to eat can indicate a more serious issue.
  • Vomiting: Frequent or severe vomiting is not a typical teething symptom and should be assessed by a healthcare provider.
  • Signs of Infection: A pediatrician should check for symptoms such as redness, swelling, discharge from the eyes or ears, or signs of infection in the gums.
  • Difficulty Breathing: Any signs of difficulty breathing or wheezing need immediate medical attention.
  • Unusual Symptoms: If your baby exhibits any unusual symptoms or behaviors that concern you, it’s always best to consult a healthcare provider for reassurance and proper diagnosis.

Tips for Managing Teething Discomfort

  • Use Teething Toys: Offer your baby safe and chilled teething toys to chew on, which can help soothe sore gums.
  • Cold Washcloths: When gently applied to your baby’s gums, a cold, damp washcloth can provide relief.
  • Gentle Gum Massage: Use a clean finger to massage your baby’s gums gently. This can help alleviate teething pain.
  • Comforting Foods: If your baby has started solids, offer chilled purees or yogurt to relieve cooling.
  • Stay Comfortable: Ensure a comfortable environment with plenty of cuddles and reassurance during this challenging phase.
  • Consult Your Pediatrician: If you’re concerned about your baby’s symptoms or discomfort, don’t hesitate to seek advice from a pediatrician.
  • Monitor for Other Symptoms: Watch for signs of infection or severe discomfort that may require medical attention.
  • Stay Patient: Remember that teething is a temporary phase. Extra love and patience can help you and your baby get through it.


Should I use teething gels or medications?

Consult your pediatrician before using teething gels or medications, as some can be harmful.

Why is my baby more clingy during teething?

Teething discomfort can make babies seek extra comfort and reassurance from their parents.

How can I differentiate between teething and other causes of eye rubbing?

Monitor for other signs of teething and consult a pediatrician if eye rubbing persists or is accompanied by other symptoms.

Can allergies cause eye rubbing in babies?

Yes, allergies can cause itchy and watery eyes, leading to eye rubbing.

Is it safe to give my baby something cold to chew on?

Yes, cold objects like teething rings can safely soothe teething pain, but avoid items that can break apart or pose a choking hazard.


Teething can cause discomfort and lead to behaviors like eye rubbing in babies. While eye rubbing is not a direct symptom of teething, the general discomfort and disrupted sleep associated with teething can contribute to it. Parents should differentiate between eye rubbing due to teething and other causes like tiredness or allergies. Soothing measures such as teething toys, cold washcloths, and gentle gum massages can help. If concerning symptoms like high fever or persistent irritability arise, consulting a pediatrician is essential to ensure the baby’s well-being.

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