An in-depth look at the pros and cons of baby mittens
As a new parent, you want to provide your baby with everything they need to grow and develop properly. Some parents choose to use mittens on their infant’s hands to prevent them from scratching their face.
However, some experts warn that mittens may hinder your baby’s development. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at the pros and cons of using baby mittens.
The purpose of baby mittens
Baby mittens are designed to cover an infant’s hands and prevent them from scratching their face. Newborns don’t have full control over their movements and can accidentally scratch themselves, especially around the eyes and cheeks. Mittens can protect your baby’s sensitive skin from damage.
Some other purported benefits of baby mittens include:
- Prevent self-soothing: Some babies suck on their hands or scratch themselves to self-soothe. Mittens may curtail this behavior.
- Stop the spread of germs: If your baby’s hands are covered, they presumably won’t spread as many germs to their face.
- Keep baby warm: Mittens can help retain body heat and keep your infant’s hands warm.
- Cuteness factor: Many parents think baby mittens simply look adorable.
Concerns about how mittens impact development
While baby mittens seem helpful at first glance, some child development experts have concerns about their use. Here are some of the potential issues with baby mittens:
Fine motor skill development
From birth to age 5, babies and toddlers undergo rapid development of their fine motor skills. This includes grasping, touching, feeling textures, and more intricate movements like self-feeding. If mittens constrain a child’s ability to move their hands and fingers, it could theoretically hinder this milestone.
Babies learn about the world around them through sight, sound, taste, smell, and touch. If their hands are covered with mittens, they miss out on valuable tactile stimulation that aids sensory development.
Sucking on hands and touching the face are natural ways babies self-soothe. If mittens restrict these behaviors for prolonged periods, some experts believe it could undermine an infant’s ability to calm themselves.
As babies grow, they learn how to intentionally reach for and grasp objects. This hand-eye coordination is key for further development. Mittens may get in the way of babies observing their own hands and interacting with toys using their hands.
Best practices for using baby mittens
If you want to use mittens but are concerned about development, follow these tips:
- Use mittens sparingly and for short periods. Don’t keep them on your baby 24/7.
- Choose mittens that fit properly and aren’t overly restrictive. Look for breathable fabrics.
- Take the mittens off for tummy time and active play to allow full hand mobility.
- Go mittens-free at mealtime so your baby can self-feed when developmentally ready.
- Never use mittens as punishment or place mittens on an older baby against their will.
The final verdict
While baby mittens can serve a purpose, they should be used judiciously. Allow your baby plenty of mittens-free time each day to reach for toys, bring their hands to mouth, and develop unhindered fine motor skills. As your baby grows older and more coordinated, they will likely have less need for protective mittens at all.
Pay attention to your own child’s development. If you have concerns about their fine motor or sensory skills, talk to your pediatrician about limiting mittens. With the right balance, your baby can safely explore the world around them and develop to their full potential.
Frequently asked questions about baby mittens
Here are answers to some other common questions about the use of protective mittens for infants:
When should you start using baby mittens?
Most experts recommend waiting until a baby is at least 1 month old before using mittens. Newborns have an instinctive grasp reflex that disappears by 1 month. Mittens interfere less with development after this reflex goes away.
When can baby mittens be discontinued?
Around 3-6 months, babies develop more control over their hands and learn to intentionally swat and grasp objects. At this point, protective mittens are less necessary and can be discontinued if desired.
Are mittens safe for a baby to sleep in?
No, mittens should be removed whenever placing a baby down to sleep. Anything loose or restrictive around a sleeping baby’s hands could be a potential suffocation hazard.
What are the best baby mittens?
Look for mittens made of soft, breathable fabrics like cotton. Choose mittens with some grip and texture to allow for sensory stimulation. Size them properly to your baby’s hands. Avoid mittens with strings or clips that could become choking hazards.
Can you put mittens on a newborn?
It’s best to wait until 1 month. But if your newborn is persistently scratching their face, short mittens periods under close supervision can be ok. Always remove mittens when napping or nursing.
What about conductive or “touch-screen” baby mittens?
Some mittens allow babies to interact with touch screens while keeping their hands covered. These can be an alternative solution, but still limit tactile development, so use them sparingly.
Are scratch mitts better than regular mittens?
Scratch mitts have open fingertips to allow for more sensory stimulation and fine motor development. They provide some protection while not fully restricting hand use.
Baby mittens can protect sensitive newborn skin but should be used in moderation. Allow plenty of mittens-free time each day for hands-on exploration and unhindered development.
With age-appropriate use under parental supervision, mittens can be part of safeguarding your baby’s skin while still supporting their growth. As your child gains more coordination, they will likely have less need for protective coverings on their hands.