Babies love exploring their bodies and devise exciting creative ways like wiggling toes, clapping, smacking lips, and fake coughing (yes, fake coughing!) to interact with it. When my baby turned 7 months, I started noticing him doing this fake coughing thing and having all my attention. Needless to say, any little anomaly with our babies can get us worried sick and sleepless for nights. When I first started noticing my baby faking coughs, it had me thinking about it for days. Is it normal? Will it go away on its own? What do I do to correct it? So, I’m going to answer all these questions that once had me worried in this post below!
Fake coughing is not a condition to be worried about, and it’s just your baby trying to communicate with you in his own unique way. Coughing is more like an early form of communication for babies and infants and is also one of their favorite hobbies to get their parents’ attention and care. This behavior normally starts around 4 months and lasts up to 9 months for infants. According to Amy Liu M.D., a professor in UNC school of medicine, “babies tend to become more attentive and involved with the new world around them at the age of 4-6 months. As a result of this normal development, infants become eager to interact with the world with all their senses (touch, sight, sound, taste, and speech). So, to fulfill their desire to communicate, they start fake coughing, sneezing, or crying”. Your baby could be faking cough for many reasons like to seek your attention, for fun, due to excessive production of saliva, or just for the sound of it. You can easily differentiate your baby’s fake cough from a real cough by checking your baby for temperature, runny nose, difficulty in breathing or falling asleep, by making sure that he is not choking, or have caught an allergy from something nearby, and last but not least, this coughing can also be the result of acid reflux. So, look out for these signs, for they are an indication of a serious problem. If your baby’s habit of fake coughing is too much to take, then try ignoring him, and teach him a better way to communicate with you politely.
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Is it normal for babies to fake cough?
This must be the first question that every parent would want to know the answer to and honestly speaking, it is very common among babies to fake cough or sneeze around the age of 3-4 months. Your baby wants to communicate with you as soon as possible, but their language skills are still developing, so they look for other ways to do that, like coughing and crying.
They know that they will get your attention with a sound like a cough, so they start faking this sound as a form of communication. But this does not mean that every baby is supposed to fake cough.
Some babies might try sneezing, gurgling sounds, or cry to get your attention. All of these are just a form of communication that your baby has learned so far and is comfortable with.
Fake coughs usually start around the age of 4 months; that’s when babies learn to mimic sounds in response to your sounds. Your baby will surely try any method to try to communicate with you. Therefore, do not panic about your baby’s fake coughs and give them the attention they seek from you.
Reasons behind fake coughing
There can be many reasons for your baby doing fake coughs like…
To get your attention
Mostly, babies attempt to fake cough to get your attention and to have you play with them or care for them. Babies are undoubtedly smart and are always figuring out a way to get your attention.
Once your baby’s little mission gets accomplished by faking a cough, there will be no stopping him.
Your baby could be faking coughs for fun as all they have to do for now is to play, so your baby could be thinking of fake coughing as a fun activity with the parent.
You’ll often find your baby giggling or smiling after a fake cough because they got what they wanted… your attention!
Babies tend to drool a ton; this mostly happens around the age of 2 months as their salivary glands get activated after hitting that age.
Babies are unable to control and deal with their excessive saliva. Having no clue about what to do with all this saliva, they try to throw it all out through coughing.
Fascinated with the sound
Babies have an amazing hearing ability way before they are even born. Research has shown that babies start hearing within their wombs when the mother is 25th-26th week pregnant.
Babies have a special fascination with sounds, which is why almost all their toys produce different noises.
In fact, sounds are an essential part of our baby’s development, as they cannot see clearly after the first few months of birth. So, your baby’s fascination with the sound could also be the reason why he is fake coughing.
When should babies stop faking a cough?
Fake coughs can get you anxious initially, but once you understand that it’s just a way of communication for your baby, you will find these fake coughs cuter. It is also essential for your baby to grow out of fake coughs with age because even parents have a limit.
If your baby can’t get out of this phase, you can help him understand that this isn’t the right way to communicate by ignoring his fake coughs and teaching him better ways to communicate and get your attention.
How do I differentiate a real cough from a fake cough?
Now that you’re aware that your baby has learned to do fake coughs, it’s also critical for you to differentiate between a fake and a real cough. Here are a few ways to find out if your baby is coughing for real or not:
- Check your baby’s body temperature. If it seems abnormal, then the cough is probably the sign of sickness and needs medical attention.
- Check your baby’s nose. If it’s runny, then the cough is a real one because coughs usually accompany colds. So, use home remedies to treat their coughs.
- Your baby could also be coughing due to a respiratory illness. Look for signs of uneven breathing and take him to the doctor for better treatment.
- If your baby is coughing, having trouble sleeping, having issues with bowel movements, and refusing to eat, take him to your pediatrician immediately; your little one is probably sick.
- Sometimes food or a tiny toy that your baby loves to put inside his mouth can get stuck inside his throat and make your baby choke and cough. In this case, either give your baby abdominal thrusts yourself or get someone who can get the food or object out of your baby’s windpipe immediately.
- Coughs can also be the result of some allergic reaction that your baby caught from something around them. Look for the object responsible for the allergic reaction and put it away. This could be some dusty stuffed toy or a pillow.
- Babies can also start coughing because of acid reflux hitting the throat. Ask your doctor how to verify that and get your baby treated immediately.
Note: Babies neither fake cough for longer periods, nor do they develop habit cough, like psychogenic cough, tic cough, or somatic cough syndrome, without any physical illness. If you find your baby coughing and crying simultaneously, then look for signs of cold or another sickness.
When should I call the pediatrician?
If your baby is coughing along with other symptoms, then seek immediate medical care, for coughing in babies under 3 months can be deadly.
Make sure that you look out for dry cough, wet cough, whooping cough, and nocturnal cough, and call the doctor immediately for further evaluation. Your baby will never cough continuously to get your attention, so get your baby checked if they are coughing continuously.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I worry about my baby’s cough?
Take your baby’s coughs seriously and get your baby checked immediately if:
- He has started coughing right after few weeks of birth.
- He coughs without feeding.
- He has been coughing for 8 weeks.
- His cough gets worse by the 3rd week.
- He’s having trouble breathing.
- He’s having night sweats, weight loss, or blood coughs.
- He has a wet or dry cough without wheezing or fast breathing, all day long.
Cough is the first form of communication that babies establish with their parents. This earliest form of communication can vary among babies from coughing to sneezing or sometimes crying.
Coughs are no threat unless they are due to cold, acid reflux, allergy, or some bacterial infection. Never encourage your baby to cough for attention, rather encourage them to play and interact with you in other ways and sounds.
Hajira is a certified editor, an experienced and thoughtful writer, and a mother of two. Her deliberate passion for writing convinced her to become a writer along with her mom duties. Driven by her passion for writing, she takes pride in providing the best possible. She aims to incite and provoke enthusiasm in her readers.