Have you seen your baby chewing tongue and you want to know what this new behavior is all about? It’s easy to notice when it first starts.
The memory is fresh for me with my newest addition. I went to pick her up after a nap one afternoon and she smiled at me and stuck her tongue out, then she started chewing her tongue and trying to suck on her upper lip.
I immediately started sticking out my tongue too, making tongue noises, and trying different things to see if she would mimic my actions as I was mimicking hers.
Why is This Something So Many Babies Do?
This is one of the most adorable early milestones. It makes way for many silly expressions, new sounds, and hilarious interactions with your newborn. Often this behavior begins between 4 months and 6 months.
You may not be looking at it as a big game-changer, like crawling or walking. You may be thinking of it as a precursor to a more important milestone: getting teeth.
However, it is actually a significant milestone itself! Reaching this developmental milestone paves the way for so many more, particularly those which involve eating and talking.
Did you make a note to remember the momentous occasion when it happened with your baby? If I didn’t have an awesome baby memory book, I may not have thought about it at all, but I do this time around and I get excited every time I have an opportunity to add something new!
When is It Time for Hard Foods?
We usually think of cutting teeth as a cue our baby is ready to try more solid foods than breastmilk or formula, and this is sometimes true, but babies get their teeth at different ages and teeth out of order. Some babies have even been born with their first tooth, about 1 in 2,000, and we certainly wouldn’t give them harder foods at birth because of it.
There is a whole lot more involved in eating than just using your teeth. The tongue plays a vital role as well, perhaps the most important.
Chewing the tongue is an indication that your baby is just becoming conscious of the fact they have a tongue and they’re beginning to figure out what they can do with it voluntarily. Sucking is only instinct and quite involuntary. Now may be a good time for some practice eating from a spoon.
Your baby is likely to make a huge mess of it and need a bath after you’re done, because they will probably spit out every bite you give them.
This is not an indication your baby doesn’t like the new foods, it only means he or she hasn’t quite figured out what to do with their tongue.
Since it requires different motions than sucking, the first uncoordinated movements of their tongue always push the food out. They’re not trying to spit it out, that’s just what happens. A baby chewing their tongue is a pretty good indication they might be ready to start figuring it out.
Should You Try to Stop Baby Chewing Tongue?
You might be looking at this behavior and thinking “All that chewing can’t be good!”, some babies do it a lot more than others.
If your baby has already cut a tooth, you should check their mouth frequently to make sure there are no sores and it’s a good idea to try encouraging teething toys or an amber teething necklace.
As long as your baby doesn’t have any teeth cutting through, there isn’t much to worry about and no need to stop this behavior.
Other Signs Your Baby May be Teething
So this isn’t a sure sign that your baby is teething, although the two milestones do tend to coincide. What are some other behaviors that coincide with and sometimes indicate teething?
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, common symptoms include: crankiness or irritability, biting or chewing, excessively drooling, tenderness of gums, refusing food or refusing to nurse, and trouble sleeping.
They also warn that “teething does NOT cause fever or diarrhea. If your child develops a fever or diarrhea and you are worried about it, talk to your health care provider”.
Keep in mind there is a great deal of variation in how babies act while teething, not just with each baby, but with each individual tooth as well. Some babies may show none of the typical symptoms cutting their first tooth, yet they endure very serious symptoms cutting one of their later teeth.
When the baby tongue chewing begins, even if there are no clear signs of teething, it’s still a good time to introduce your baby to new foods. It’s not time yet for any truly solid finger foods, but some very thin, nearly liquid rice cereal or baby food should be safe now.
It’s usually recommended that you only introduce one new food each week. This is so you can observe your baby for signs of food allergies and if you notice anything you can be fairly certain of the cause.
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