Just as we looked at in our article on how long should a baby wear a hat, the same question goes for When Should A Baby Stop Wearing Mittens? As parents, we all want to protect our newborns. Babies can be very curious. They can reach for objects that might hurt them or move their fingers in a wasy that could cause them pain. Their cute little fingers and hands are so delicate and weak at first, all we want to do is protect them. Of course, there is always the argument that we want them to also develop their senses in their brand-new world, so keeping their hands covered for too long may actually hurt them. As with so many parenting questions, it’s always a balancing act.
Mittens are commonly used to protect a baby’s hands and prevent them from scratching their delicate skin. However, as babies grow and develop, the need for mittens may decrease. This article will explore the appropriate time for babies to stop wearing mittens, taking into consideration factors such as motor skill development, self-soothing, and sensory exploration. By examining relevant research, guidelines, and expert recommendations, we can gain insights into the optimal duration for mitten usage and promote healthy development in infants.
Table of Contents
Motor Skill Development
One of the primary reasons parents dress their babies in mittens is to prevent them from scratching their faces due to involuntary movements and uncontrolled arm flailing. During the early months, babies’ motor skills are still developing, and they may have difficulty controlling their hand movements (Douglas et al., 2020, p. 3). Mittens act as a protective barrier and help keep their sharp fingernails away from their delicate skin.
However, as babies grow older and their motor skills improve, the need for mittens diminishes. Around the age of three to four months, infants typically start gaining better control over their arm and hand movements (AAP, 2021, p. 1). They become more capable of deliberately exploring their own bodies without inadvertently scratching themselves. Therefore, it is generally recommended to gradually reduce or eliminate mitten usage as babies develop greater control over their hand movements.
Another consideration when determining when babies should stop wearing mittens is their self-soothing abilities. Infants often use their hands and fingers to self-soothe by sucking on them or exploring their faces. This self-soothing behavior is a normal part of their development and helps them regulate their emotions and provide comfort (Douglas et al., 2020, p. 4).
Wearing mittens can hinder a baby’s ability to engage in self-soothing behaviors, as it restricts their access to their hands and fingers. It is important to allow babies the freedom to explore their faces and develop their self-soothing techniques. As infants grow older, they become more proficient at self-soothing and are less likely to rely on their hands for comfort. Therefore, it is advisable to gradually phase out the use of mittens to encourage the development of self-soothing skills.
Babies learn about the world around them through sensory exploration, and their hands play a crucial role in this process. Hands are rich in sensory receptors, and when babies touch different textures, objects, and their own bodies, they receive valuable sensory input that aids in cognitive development (Douglas et al., 2020, p. 5). Wearing mittens restricts their ability to fully engage in tactile exploration.
Experts recommend allowing babies to have unrestricted access to their hands as they explore their bodies and the environment (Douglas et al., 2020, p. 5). Removing mittens enables babies to touch, grasp, and manipulate objects, fostering their sensory development and fine motor skills. Gradually discontinuing mitten usage encourages babies to explore their surroundings and promotes the development of their sensory and cognitive abilities.
Determining the appropriate time for a baby to stop wearing mittens involves considering various factors, including motor skill development, self-soothing abilities, and sensory exploration. While mittens serve a vital purpose in protecting babies from accidental scratching during the early months, they should be gradually phased out as infants develop better motor control.
Allowing babies the freedom to explore their bodies and engage in self-soothing behaviors is crucial for their overall development. By following expert recommendations and considering the individual needs and development of the baby, parents can ensure a smooth transition away from mitten usage.
American Academy of Pediatrics. (2021). How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained. HealthyChildren.org. Retrieved from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/sleep/Pages/A-Parents-Guide-to-Safe-Sleep.aspx
Douglas, P. S., Hines, S., & Mills, T. (2020). Newborn Skin Care. American Family Physician, 101(1), 39-48.