Babies are naturally gifted with certain reflexes that help them to communicate when they are unable to speak. I used to be confused when my 6-week old baby girl started sticking her tongue out and drooled occasionally.
It turns out that babies use their tongues to explore the tiny world around them. Sticking tongue out and drooling could be due to various reasons, might be because your baby is hungry or full, innate reflex or she is just trying to taste the leftover amniotic fluid from her hands or may they are too focused.
When they focus on a task, their attention is diverted from mouth position and tongue movements, and as a result, this results in drooling.
So all the new moms out there who are constantly worried about sticking tongue out or drooling, keep calm! Your baby is just achieving her developmental milestones one by one.
Why does my baby drool?
Saliva aids in protecting the mouth and throat while swallowing milk, keeping gums healthy, and removing bacteria from the mouth. Saliva neutralizes the stomach acid, and helps develop the baby’s intestinal lining fully, and protects the lining of the esophagus from irritation.
Studies have shown that babies produce eight times more saliva than adults. They are unable to swallow saliva and spill it out of the mouth. The reason for excessive drooling isn’t an increase in saliva production but failure to swallow it. This could be due to weak oral muscles, or the infant isn’t aware of controlling her muscles. Drooling means that your baby’s salivary gums are activated, saliva helps break down solid food, remove bacteria and keep the mouth well hydrated. Saliva also aids in binding the food together.
Drooling plays a crucial role in the developmental milestone. The brain receives a signal from motor receptors in the mouth to start saliva production in the mouth, which could be why your baby is ready for solid food. The sign of physical development in toddlers includes drooling and blowing bubbles. If your little one drools or sticks her tongue out after feeding, then it’s a sign that his sense of smell is fine, and he has started remembering different smells and tastes.
Sticking tongue out, is your baby trying to communicate?
Infants communicate by imitating facial expressions; if you reciprocate your tongue protruding, your baby will do the same to engage you in communication. They could be syncing your lips and trying to talk to you, but it results in just blowing raspberries. The tongue plays an important role in forming words and mimicking facial expressions.
It could be a thrust reflex!
Babies have been endowed with the natural habit of sucking and latching on to breast or bottle. It is an innate reflex known as “thrust reflex.” This reflex helps them to prevent choking while being fed.
Sucking reflex and thrust reflex goes hand in hand with each other. It also aids in speech ability to develop. The absence of these reflexes results in serious developmental delays and psychological impairment, including…
- A high plate of mouth.
- Speech impairment.
- Prolonged sucking.
- Difficulty in food chewing and food swallowing.
- Trouble in pronouncing words correctly.
Is your baby hungry or full?
Infants like to interact and communicate with their parents using alternative ways of communication, the foremost important of them is using facial expressions. Baby sticking her tongue out signs that it’s time to eat. They may also show some other signs like putting the hand in their mouth, lip-smacking, or leaning toward your breast or feeding bottle.
On the other hand, if you see your baby sticking her tongue out after feeding, this can be a comprehensible sign that her little tummy is full. She’ll try to pull away from the nipple or might look irritated.
Your baby might be fiddling with you!
Babies look cute when they stick their tongue out, and they could be trying to imitate and engage you with them making cute facial expressions. She could be trying to play or interact with you.
Is your baby mouth breathing?
Your baby could be breathing through his mouth. Normally a baby’s breath through their nose, but if your baby is breathing through her mouth, this is often an indication of tonsillitis blocked nasal passages or chest congestion.
Consult your doctor before the progress of any bacterial or viral disease. Studies have shown that babies who breathe through their mouth have delayed speech.
Sticking tongue out might be a sign of early teething
A baby sticking tongue out or chewing on anything that comes in handy could be a sign of early teething. This occurs when your baby is feeling irritation in the mouth.
Look for other symptoms like swollen gums, excessive drooling, and fussy behavior. Clinical studies have shown that infants had their first teeth within 2 weeks to 3 months.
Rashes around cheeks, neck, or chest
Continuous dribbling of saliva through the mouth, a baby’s lower lips, cheeks, neck, and chest may show signs of skin irritation. Excessive saliva quantity comes to your child’s cheeks, neck, or sometimes chest, and you may start to notice red, uneven rashes there. This type of rash is known as drool rash, whose etiology is excessive drooling.
Treatment involves washing the affected area properly, then pat it dry and at the end, apply a lanolin-based cream. Tie a bib around your baby’s neck to prevent drool from spreading onto the neck and chest area.
Apply petroleum jelly for moisturizing and healing the affected area. However, seek the doctor before applying any ointment or lotion to avoid complications.
Delay in development due to excessive drooling
Your baby might have weak oral muscles, or don’t know how to properly use them. They just keep their mouth open and saliva drools out of their mouth with a tongue hanging on one side.
Micrognathia is a condition in which a baby has a genetically smaller than average jaw and mouth. This condition occurs in 1 in 1500 births. It’s small enough to interfere with feeding, swallowing, chewing, breathing, and sleeping. It may also cause teeth to misalign and abnormally small.
Micrognathia Is associated with skeletal dysplasia. It could also be linked to cleft palate or lip and Digeorge syndrome.
Other causes include:
- Pierre robin sequence
- Stickler syndrome
- Craniofacial macrosomia
- Treacher Collins syndrome
- Nagar syndrome
- Hemifacial microsomia
It is a condition in which a baby has an abnormally large tongue in proportion to the mouth. It’s primarily a genetic condition but could be acquired due to certain underlying conditions. Symptoms associated with macroglossia include
- Excessive drooling
- Continuously sticking tongue out
- Speech impairment
- Difficulty in eating and swallowing
- Obstruction in airway
- Abnormal growth of teeth
There are certain congenital conditions associated with macroglossia which include:
- Down syndrome
- Beckwith-wiedemann syndrome
- Congenital hypothyroidism
Acquired conditions leading to macroglossia include:
- Pemphigus Vulgaris
When should I take my baby to the doctor?
- If your child is unable seal his lips properly and move the tongue around.
- If your child is swallowing abnormally.
- When he has a stuffy or blocked nose.
- When the posture of your child is abnormal and his jaw is not firm.
- If your child drools even after he crosses the age of four.
Is it normal for my baby to be protruding her tongue?
Yes, it is normal. It helps facilitate breast or bottle feeding but you should consult the pediatrician if your child is unable to move his tongue around
How can I tell if my baby is teething early?
The teething process begins at a quite early stage, although babies don’t have a tooth by the age of 6-8 months.
As soon as the teething period begins, saliva production increases, and your child may drool excessively when a tooth pushes its way through the gums.
Does a baby with Down syndrome stick out tongue?
In Down syndrome, there is a poor or decreased tone of muscles. The tongue is a muscle and it’s controlled by the motor part of the nervous system. Any congenital pathology causes a decrease in the tone of muscles including the tongue as well.
Also, babies with Down syndrome have much weaker suckling motion, making breastfeeding difficult. So babies usually hold their tongue in a forward position to feed effectively.
Sticking tongue out could be sign of autism in my baby?
Babies with autism do stick their tongue out, but it is combined with other severe signs and symptoms like tilted head, flexed fingers, and hands, vice versa.
Should my 6-week old be drooling?
Drooling is a normal physiological process and continues until your baby develops complete control of her muscles. This occurs after your baby starts having solid food. It lasts between 18 to 24 months.
How do I get rid of my baby’s tongue-thrust reflex?
Sucking on a straw causes the tongue to retract (move back in the mouth), which again will help eliminate the tongue-thrust reflex.
Babies look really cute when they stick their tongue out as they play or try to engage with you. They like to mimic facial expressions, and this can start as early as 1 week old.
However, excessive drooling and sticking tongue out could be a sign of certain congenital or acquired syndromes. If you suspect an abnormal pattern of drooling or change in the size of the tongue, talk it over with your doctor ASAP and get your baby checked.