Babies Pulling Ears – Is it Normal, Causes and Treatment

6 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.

baby pulling ears

Your tiny baby seems to be growing and eager to discover new attributes of bodies and surroundings. Some babies start pulling or rubbing their ears, and mothers may find it uncommon. Don’t Worry! Babies pulling ears is usually harmless. In some cases though, it may indicate some allergies and infection.

There are multiple reasons why your baby suddenly starts pulling, scratching, and tugging their ears. But, first, you’ve got to look at the why your baby is pulling their ears, if it is a cause for concern, and when you may need medical intervention for your munchkin.

In This Article

Is Babies Pulling Ears Normal?

Babies’ ear pulling is normal if it’s a habit. Usually, babies do pull their ears. Sometimes, they pull their ears, thinking it is self-soothing. But if your babies are pulling, tugging, and rubbing their ears excessively, you should look after the symptoms and consult a doctor to know the exact reason for ear pulling. For example, they may pull the ear due to irritation and infection. Hence, it’s better to consult with a doctor.

Top 8 Major Causes For Babies Pulling Ears

Causes For Babies Pulling Ears

Ear pulling is completely common in babies who are 4-12 months old. It’s common even in younger babies. During this time, almost all babies are in the exploratory phase of their life and want to touch and feel themselves and their surroundings. Usually, they stop pulling their ears once they lose interest in pulling. Some other possible reasons are as follows:

1. Habit

When babies discover ears, they pull them, tug them, and rub them. It has become their habit and common. So, parents don’t need to worry about it.

2. Self Soothing

Like thumb-sucking, they may rub their ears and pull them, thinking it’s a way of self-soothing. Babies usually do this before bedtime or napping, and it’s a good sign.

3. Earwax

Ear wax is the common reason why babies start pulling their ears. Wax may cause itchiness which is why babies start pulling their ears. This is the primary cause of ear pulling in older kids.

4. Itchy Skin

This reason is logical. When the skin around the ears of babies becomes itchy, they usually start pulling their ears. Skin dryness, temperature change, soap reaction, and frequent bathing are common reasons for itchy skin leading to ear pulling in babies.

5. Teething

Usually, during teething, nerves around babies’ teeth become itchy. This makes babies pull their mouths and ears because of itchiness.

[Read : Teething in Babies]

6. Water in the Ear

During the bath, water may enter the ear canal, which irritates. This is why they pull their ears.

7. Skin and Respiratory Allergies

Babies suffering from skin allergies and respiratory allergies lead to irritation. Respiratory allergies can lead to the building of excess mucus, which drains into the middle ear. Swollen tissues like adenoids can also cause draining of the mucus and fluid travel to the middle ear from the nasopharynx. It causes a sense of ear fullness and irritation. Thereby leads to ear pulling in babies.

8. Ear Infection

An ear infection is a common reason why babies pull their ears. The ear infections also come with additional symptoms such as no appetite, fussiness, crying, difficulty sleeping, vomiting, irritability, and flu-like symptoms.

a) Otitis Media

This is one of the common ear infections, and nearly 80% of new babies experience this by the age of three years. This ear infection leads to different symptoms such as ear pulling behavior and commonly happens due to viral infection and bacterial infection of the ear. In addition, it may lie behind babies’ eardrums.

b) Otitis Externa

This is commonly known as the swimmer’s ear and usually happens due to bacterial growth in the outer ear canal. Babies susceptible to infection can have this problem and are immune compromised to bacterial and fungal growth.

You can easily notice the redness on the outer ear opening. Moreover, you may see the fluid oozing out from the ear canal and white patches on the ear canal.

c) Ear Infection With Upper Respiratory Infection

Babies suffering from respiratory infections such as pneumonia and the common cold are at greater risk of ear infections. This is why babies may pull their ears due to itchiness. Moreover, infected mucus may flow from the nasopharynx to the middle ear via the Eustachian tube. This leads to bacteria inside the ear which may cause them to pull their ear.

Babies may pull their ears constantly due to fever and pain, along with the reasons mentioned above for ear pulling.

[Read : Ear Infection In Babies]

Simple Home Remedies to Stop Babies From Pulling Ears

Ear pulling or tugging depends on several reasons. Sometimes, you need to proceed with medical treatment. However, if your baby is just pulling their ears because of a habit, they may hurt them badly. Try to pull their attention to other things. For example,

  • You can give them some toys or a new pair of socks in their hand so they can stop rubbing their ears.
  • Distract them with some colorful items and songs.
  • You can also offer them rubbery toys so that they can avoid rubbing their ears.
  • Look at other symptoms of ear infections and consult with a pediatrician. If you leave the infection untreated for a long time, it may cause serious trouble to your baby.
  • Sometimes, skin rashes can be severe in babies, like eczema. It has no cure, but babies offer treatment to deal with symptoms. Sometimes, babies get dandruff which usually clears itself. Make sure to get the right treatment for ear pulling to avoid issues.

When to See a Doctor?

baby crying for ear infection

If your babies continue to rub or pull their ears for more than a week or start crying while pulling their ears and have a pain sensation, you must consult with a doctor. In addition to this, look for these signs and symptoms.

  • Fluid or mucus oozing out from the ear
  • High fever than 100.4°F
  • White patches or redness on the ear canal
  • Excess nasal mucus travel from the mouth to the ear
  • Redness on the skin and around the outer ear
  • Foreign particles inside the ear canal

Treatment Options For Babies Pulling Ears

Treatment For Babies Pulling Ears

If you feel that your baby’s ear pulling is not due to habit but due to some other underlying medical cause, you may need to take your baby to the pediatrician who may do a complete checkup and prescribe medications depending on the symptoms and diagnosis.

1. Antibiotics and Antifungal Medications

If babies are pulling their ears due to fungal or bacterial infection and it doesn’t resolve, the pediatrician may prescribe antifungal and antibiotics. In addition, doctors may prescribe antibiotic ear drops in several cases to control infection.

2. Medication For Respiratory Related Infections

If babies are pulling their ears due to respiratory infection, it can be managed with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, etc., prescribed by the doctor. The medication helps to prevent mucus secretion in the ear and exacerbation of ear irritation.

3. Topical Ointments

Babies suffering from eczema can be treated with ointments to prevent itchiness in the ear. Doctors may also prescribe some cream-based lotion to deal with skin problems.

4. Removal of Foreign Body

If some foreign particle enters the ear, it may cause irritation which results in ear pulling. Therefore, the doctors will inspect the ear canal and remove foreign particles to prevent ear problems.

In a nutshell, baby pulling ears is mostly out of habit. But sometimes it may happen due to infection and other causes. Now, you have several signs and symptoms of ear pulling in babies. So you can track these symptoms and follow the right preventive method to stop ear pulling.


1. How to Manage Baby’s Ear-Pulling Behavior at Home?

If you want to manage a baby’s ear-pulling behavior at home, here are a few things you can try.

  • Offer them alternatives to self-soothing like a pacifier, new socks, and toys.
  • Dry babies’ ears after bath to prevent skin dryness.
  • Avoid using cotton swabs to clear your baby’s ear as it may push wear wax near the eardrum and cause more problems.
  • Give your babies a teether.
  • Maintain good hygiene.
  • Use mist to keep skin soft and supple.

2. Does Pulling Ears in Babies Mean Ear Infection?

Yes, ear pulling in babies can happen due to ear infections also. However, you can consult with a doctor to get the right treatment.

3. Does Pulling on the Ear Mean Teething?

Babies do pull their ears due to teething because they feel irritated.

4. What Does Baby Tugging Ears Mean in Body Language?

Tugging or rubbing ears means the baby feels irritated and may be a sign of a blocked ear with wax. So, you must examine and deal with it to avoid ear-pulling issues.

Read Also: Ear Wax In Toddlers – Should It Be Removed?

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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