My little one started to move his mouth in a chewing motion lately. At first, it looked cute and adorable, but then I started to suspect whether it is just a reflex occurring in his developmental stage or there is something serious? Is that an indication of early teething? It might look like they are chewing on nothing, but your baby could be gumming on his tongue.
Sucking and chewing on the tongue is a natural instinct in babies that comes with breastfeeding; without these reflexes, the baby may not be able to latch properly on the breast to suck milk. The tongue chewing and sucking trigger the release of chemicals like serotonin and dopamine, helping the baby relax and self-soothe.
You may think this behavior odd, but it’s quite common in most babies. This behavior usually starts between 4 to 6 months, whereas in most cases, it may start way earlier at 2 months. This reflex usually subsides within weeks, but few babies continue until late adolescence, like sucking a thumb or sleeping with a stuffed toy beside at night.
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Newborn to 3 months old
The chewing motion in newborn to 3 months of age is in response to suckling action. It’s very strong in the first three months of life, and they will suck on almost anything that comes close to their mouth; newborns usually suck on their tongue.
Aggravated by unconditioned reflex
With a strong suckling reflex, babies have to satisfy their urge to suck by latching or sucking on anything. Older babies chew on their hands or feet, whereas newborns chew on their tongue.
If your baby is chewing on the tongue or lip-smacking, it could be a sign of hunger. Monitor the feeding time of your baby. Usually, babies stick their tongue out when they are hungry, but some babies may start a chewing motion noticed that my baby performed chewing action close to feeding time. This was in response to a suckling reflex and a sign of hunger cue.
In infants, chewing or sucking randomly may indicate an irregular feeding pattern.
4 months to 6 months old
Chewing action is most prominent in this age group, the babies start to get to know about their body parts and find something to play with.
Exploring their mouth
Babies are a cute little bundle of joy; they light up our lives with their cute actions coupled with a mischievous smile. But babies are weird too. They start to explore their tiny tongue, hands, fingers, and feet in their early developmental stages. With their lust to latch on anything that comes near them coupled with suckling reflex, it may seem like they are chewing baby gum.
Your baby could be doing this while sleeping, and it may look like your baby is biting or chewing his tongue.
Your baby is ready for solid foods
Babies have strong innate reflexes; one of the most prominent reflexes is the tongue-thrust reflex. It is a protective mechanism to forestall the baby from choking any hard thing when it enters the mouth.
This reflex usually subsides within 4 to 6 months and the baby starts to maneuver the tongue around within the mouth and suck on things, at this age swallowing motion is more mature and precise. It’s a sign that your baby is ready for solid food.
Sign of early teething
In some babies, teething might start as early as 6 months. You’ll notice a sharp tooth cutting through soar gums, and this period is quite uncomfortable for your baby. Your baby may discover chewing motion in response to subside the pain. You can rectify this discomfort by putting a pacifier in your baby’s mouth.
Tips to reduce gumming or chewing
Keep in mind the first signs of hunger
Always notice signs of hunger and when the last time you fed your baby. Look if your baby is lip-smacking, sticking his tongue out, chewing on a washcloth, or opening his mouth when you come near to him. Set up a schedule of every 2 hrs, which will help to scale back or eliminate the chewing action.
Distract your baby!
If your baby has newly discovered his tongue and enjoys twiddling with it, then it could be a challenging task to distract him from it. You can use multiple distractions to minimize chewing by a musical toy or talking and fidgeting with your baby.
Should I be concerned?
Although the chewing action may seem odd, it is just a response to innate reflex and harmless most of the time. At the same time, excessive and repetitive chewing beyond the age of 3 yrs raises some serious concerns.
Problem with breathing
Is your baby having troubled breathing? Has blue or purple tinge lips? And opens mouth frequently? Then he might be gasping for air and has trouble breathing. It could be a sign of serious illness; refer to your pediatrician as soon as you suspect these signs and symptoms.
Maligned oral development
Rarely are there cases where the baby’s jaw may develop improperly or malaligned teeth leading to abnormal jaw development. This is also a sign of mental retardation in severe cases. Keep in touch with your dental pediatrician since the age your baby gets his first tooth.
Why does my 2-month-old put her hand in her mouth?
You may often notice your baby putting their hand or feet in his mouth; it could be due to hunger, boredom, or a self-soothing mechanism.
Why does my baby keep chewing?
Chewing action responds to the suckling reflex; at 2 months baby often chew on their tongue. It may seem like they are chewing on nothing, but your baby could be sucking his tongue. The baby usually performs this action when they are hungry or they have just explored their tongue. In babies after 4 months of age, chewing is expounded to teething or self-soothing.
Is baby chewing a sign of teething?
YES! It could be a sign of early teething; stay alert for signs. If you suspect any change or discomfort in your baby’s behavior, consult a pediatric dentist and get their advice.
Can a baby be teething at 2 months old?
The chances are rare; most babies are born with 1 tooth protruding out of their gums. However, signs of early teething can start at this age. Your baby might feel itchiness or slight discomfort in his gums.
How do you tell if the baby is hungry or wants comfort?
When my baby was hungry, he used to put a hand or bib in his mouth and made a chewing motion as he was sucking. I always took a hint from these actions and fed him right away without hitting his fussy alarm.
Is chewing a sign of autism?
The chewing action usually subsides within 4 to 6 months. If you suspect that your child has continued to perform this action, consult your pediatrician as it may be a serious call of autism.
How do I stop my baby from chewing on his tongue?
Well, the question arises, Why do you need to stop your baby from sucking or chewing? It’s an innate reflex in babies. Without this reflex, they wouldn’t be able to feed properly. You can use pacifiers or soothers to help them fill their sucking urge; however, many parents oppose the idea of pacifiers.
How do you tell if a baby is teething?
If you see the following signs in your baby then take a hint that your baby is on his way to teething…
- Increased saliva production in babies to soothe gums
- Excessive drooling
- Fussiness, irritability and crankiness especially at midnight
- Chewing and sucking on anything that comes close to your abies mouth
Should I let my baby chew on his fingers or hands?
There is no big deal if you let your baby chew on hands or fingers. It’s just a response to innate reflexes and developmental stages your baby is going through. If you are bothered by it, you can distract your baby with toys or put a pacifier in your mouth to reduce it.
We as a parent get excited with every milestone our little one achieves be it responding with a cute smile or overcoming a developmental milestone. Every step is precious as well as crucial for us. Parenthood doesn’t come with a “how-to” guide. You’ve to figure it out on your own because every baby is different.
My little one started gumming his mouth at 2 months old, and it just looked cute and silly at first. With time it raised concerns about whether this is normal behavior or not? Am I doing the right thing by letting him chew on his tongue, fingers, or hand? Is it a sign of some abnormal behavior?
My pediatrician told me not to worry about it that much, keep an eye on him, and let him go through this developmental stage. After all, without chewing motion or suckling reflex, how will your baby learn to feed or chew o his own? Let him explore his body.
It is absolutely normal behavior, be it in teething or self-soothing. There is absolutely nothing to stress about it.