First-time baby chewing on tongue seems funny, but you may start worrying when you see them doing it often. Read on to learn why your baby is chewing on their tongue and what you can do to prevent it.
Babies are weird. They do stuff like banging their head on your shoulder, chewing on their hands, keeping their mouth open, or chewing on their tongue may make you wonder, why do they do that? Is it normal?
And have you seen baby pout, frown, or furrow? It is hilarious. At the same time, when they keep doing the same thing repeatedly, it worries you. But when they do something like that, they try to communicate with you most of the time.
If you see your baby chewing on the tongue, most likely, there is nothing to worry about. The reasons for babies chewing on their tongues vary from baby to baby, and it could mean different things depending on their age. Newborns chewing on their tongue is not actually chewing but sucking, while 3-month-old chewing on their tongue could mean that they are self-soothing. And 4–6 months old baby chewing on the tongue could mean that they are teething or ready for solids.
Let’s see why babies chew on their tongue and what you can do to help them.
Why does Baby chew on the tongue?
Reasons for baby chewing on their tongue varies depending on their age. Most of the time, it is a normal part of their development, and there is nothing to worry about. But when baby is chewing on their tongue, they are trying to communicate with you.
Let’s look at the reasons why babies chew on their tongue depending on their age
Newborns chewing on their tongue
Babies are born with a sucking reflex which causes the baby to start sucking when the nipple touches the roof of their mouth.
Because newborns are fed around the clock, they might suck on their tongue when they are not being fed to satisfy their innate urge to suck. So, when they are sucking on their tongue, it may look like they are chewing on their tongue.
Babies are also born with a tongue-thrust reflex that causes them a baby to stick their tongue out when their lips are touched. Tongue thrust reflex helps the baby latch onto the nipple while breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.
So, if their lips are touched when you are dressing them or playing with them, they may start extending their tongue and sucking on it, which may look like a baby chewing on their tongue.
Baby chewing on their tongue can also be a sign of hunger as they still can not communicate their needs. Once feeding is established in newborns, they may start associating tongue chewing with eating.
So, when they are hungry, they start sucking on their tongue instead of crying, which may look like they are chewing on their tongue.
If you see your baby chewing on their tongue close to their feeding time, it can be a hunger clue.
2-3 months old baby Chewing on their tongue
As babies get older, they start moving their hands and feet and discovering other parts of their bodies. Tongue chewing can simply be a reason for them discovering tongue in their mouth. Once they discover their tongue, they will stick their tongue out, suck or chew on it.
Also, once they discover their hand, they may start putting their hand in their mouth and playing with their tongue.
If your baby has recently started moving their hands and feet or sticking their tongue out, then 2-3 months old baby chewing on their tongue because they have discovered their tongue.
It is also possible that babies are chewing their tongue as a self-soothing technique.
4-6 months old baby chewing on their tongue
Sign for the readiness of Solid
For 4-6 months old babies, chewing on their tongue is a sign of readiness for solid. As babies grow older, they need to move their tongue properly to prepare themselves for solids. So, your 4–6-months old chewing on their tongue can signify that they are preparing themselves for solids.
There is nothing to worry about if you see your 4-6 months old chewing on their tongue. It won’t last long. Once they start solids at 6 months, they may stop chewing on their tongue.
Teething can start in babies anywhere from 4 to 6 months, with the exception of some starting earlier than this. Teething is a normal part in which the first teeth erupt through the gum. Teething is very painful for babies. The swelling and tenderness at the site of erupting tooth make the baby very uncomfortable.
And to help relieve pressure in their gums, the baby may start chewing on their hand or toy. In the absence of a chewing toy, they may start chewing on their tongue as it is readily available in their mouth.
If your baby is chewing on the tongue because of teething, you will also see other signs such as increased irritability and excessive drooling.
What can you do about Baby chewing on Tongue?
Baby chewing on the tongue is normal, and there is nothing to worry about. But if it is still bothering you and you are worried about it becoming a habit, there are things you can do to satisfy your baby’s urge to suck or chew once you find out their reason for chewing on tongue.
Satisfy Newborn’s urge to suck
Babies are born with a strong innate urge to suck. If your newborn is sucking on their tongue because of their sucking reflex, try giving them a pacifier. Some parents do not like to give their baby pacifier, but research studies have shown that non-nutritive sucking is a proven calming mechanism that relieves painful sensations. And pacifier is also associated with a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
So, when you give a pacifier for non-nutritive sucking, they will not suck on their tongue.
Establish a feeding schedule
If you find your baby chewing on their tongue when they are close to their feeding time, you may need to adjust your feeding schedule. Feed them before they start chewing on their tongue. Baby chewing on their tongue as a hunger clue is easy to resolve with little change in the baby’s feeding schedule.
Give them a teething toy
If the baby is chewing on their tongue because they are teething, you need to give them teething toys. Teething toys will help relieve pressure on their gum, so they do not need to chew on their tongue when they are teething.
Cold teething toys work best to relieve pressure on their gum. So, look for teething toys that you can freeze before giving them to a baby.
If your 6-month-old baby is chewing on the tongue, it could mean that they are ready for solid. According to AAP, do not start feeding your baby solid before they are 6 months of age, even when they are showing signs of readiness. And when you start solids, make sure to introduce one solid food at a time and wait for one week before introducing new food to rule out allergies, if any.
When to worry about baby chewing on tongue?
Most of the time, babies chewing on their tongues are not a cause of concern. They are just discovering their tongue or learning how to use them properly. So, when you see your baby chewing on tongue, you should not worry about it. They will outgrow the habit of chewing or biting their tongue (then pick up another habit to make you worry!!).
However, if your baby does not quit chewing on their tongue after an extended period, you need to talk to your pediatrician. Baby’s sucking reflex and tongue thrust reflex subside when they are 12 months old. If your baby is still chewing on the tongue after their first birthday, you need to see your doctor.
Sometimes the anatomical issue can cause the baby to chew on their tongue and interfere with their eating. So, it is best to check with a pediatrician to rule out the possibility.
Babies who are chewing their tongue may bite their tongue accidentally. This accident should prevent them from chewing on their tongue. But if you see your baby chewing on their tongue after biting, even when they are in pain, you need to talk to your doctor.
Besides that, baby chewing on the tongue is a normal part of their development. If it is not hurting them, do not do anything. They will grow out of this habit as they get older.
My Baby is chewing with nothing in their mouth. Is it normal?
When babies are chewing with nothing in their mouth, they are usually chewing or sucking on their tongue. Babies have a strong innate urge to suck on in the first year of their lives. If your baby is chewing with nothing in their mouth, they are usually sucking or chewing on their tongue because of their sucking reflex, hungry, teething, or showing their readiness for solids.
Baby chewing on their tongue is a normal part of their development, and they will quit chewing with nothing in their mouth once they know how to use their tongue properly.
Baby chewing on the tongue is a normal part of their development. They have the innate urge to suck during the first year of their life. So, if you see your baby chewing on their tongue, it may be that they are trying to satisfy their urge to suck on something – and the tongue is readily available in the mouth.
Other common reasons for tongue chewing include their readiness for solids and teething. Once you know the reason for tongue chewing, you can take appropriate action to satisfy their urge to chew.
Once they know how to use their tongue properly, they will stop chewing on it. Meanwhile, keep an eye on them and see if they develop any other clinical manifestations that may require medical intervention.
Good luck, Mama!!
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