Babies are constantly exploring themselves, trying to discover the functionality of several body parts, and one of those explorations involves chewing their tongues.
It’s excellent when babies explore most of their body parts by themselves; it helps them figure out stuff for themselves—a necessary skill they’ll need later in life. However, these explorations may generate critical concerns if they are done for an extended period.
So if you’re a parent wondering why your baby keeps chewing their tongue and the possible remedy, then you shouldn’t skip a single sentence in this guide.
Babies are amazing, although they can be a little weird sometimes, especially during infancy. For example, they engage in several activities like tongue chewing, banging their head on their shoulder, and chewing their hands. Parents often ponder if it’s natural for babies to do these things or if it’s an abnormal trait that needs help.
It’s common to see a baby chewing their tongue. Babies chew their tongues for several reasons depending on their age. For example, newborn babies suck their tongues rather than chew, while babies of about 3 months old chew their tongues as a means of self-soothing. Older babies of 4-6 months old chewing on the tongue could mean they are ready for solid or teething.
Let’s see why babies chew their tongues and how to know when it’s abnormal.
Why Do Babies Chew Their Tongues?
Babies chew their tongues for several reasons depending on their age. In most cases, chewing the tongue is a part of the baby’s development process and shouldn’t be considered abnormal. Babies also chew their tongues when they’re trying to communicate.
Below is a list of various reasons babies chew their tongues based on age.
Babes sometimes chew their tongues when trying to communicate with us. In the case of hunger, a baby can begin chewing their tongue as a sign that they are feeling hungry. It’s that way for them because of their underdeveloped sense of communication.
So, instead of crying, some babies chew their tongues whenever hungry. That said, when next you see your baby chewing their tongue, it’s most likely that they’re hungry and decided to use the tongue as a form of satisfaction for that moment.
All babies are born with a sucking reflex that enables them to start sucking anytime the nipple touches their mouth.
Most babies suck their tongues whenever they’re not being fed to satisfy their innate urge to suck. So your baby could be sucking their tongue, but this may appear like tongue chewing.
Due to the tongue-thrust reflex in all babies, they stick their tongue out whenever anyone touches their lips; this natural feature enables them to suck the nipple during feeding.
We can all agree that babies can be selfish most times—it’s a natural occurrence, and there’s nothing wrong with that, provided they are still babies.
Based on their selfishness as babies, they tend to seek attention almost every time, regardless of whether they need it. So they love to see you watching them, staying close to them, and carrying them about.
So when they see you doing something different, like maybe the chores or taking out the trash, they start chewing their tongues, using it to make sounds; some babies may even smack their lips or do whatever to get your attention.
And if they try too long to get your attention but keep ignoring them, they start crying until you pick them up. Babies can be stressful during those phases, but that’s how they are designed—one can’t do much about it.
2-3 Months Old Baby Chewing On Their Tongue
Babies move their hands and feet as they grow older. They also discover other body parts, and tongue chewing can be associated with finding a new organ in their mouth; This discovery leads them to stick, chew or suck their tongue.
It’s also common to see babies put their hands in their mouth once they discover the hand; hence if you discover that your baby sticks their tongue out or chews it, you shouldn’t bother much as it could mean that they just recently discovered how to play with their tongue.
4-6 Months Old Baby Chewing On Their Tongue
When babies grow up to about 4 to 6 months, they start teething, although this happens early in some babies. Teething is when babies develop their first set of teeth, which is often painful.
During teething, babies experience swelling and tenderness in the area of the erupting tooth and resort to tongue chewing to ease the pain.
Teething also comes with other signs, like constant drooling and increased irritability.
Preparing for Solid
Chewing the tongue for babies of 4-6 months is a sign that they’re ready for solid. Research shows that babies move their tongues when preparing themselves for solid.
So if you find out that your 4-6 month-old baby chews their tongue constantly, it indicates that they’re preparing themselves for solids.
Most babies stop chewing their tongues once they get to 6 months. So if your 4-6 baby chews their tongue, you don’t have to worry about it. Instead, it might indicate that they’re preparing for solids.
What To Do Concerning Baby Chewing Their Tongue
As stated earlier, tongue chewing is a normal part of the growth process in babies; hence you shouldn’t bother or feel worried. But if you think it’s becoming a habit for your baby, then you can do a few things to satisfy your baby’s urge to chew or suck their tongue.
If your baby is within the age of 6 months and they constantly chew their tongue, then it could be that they’re ready for solids.
According to UNICEF, At 6 months, your baby can eat ANYTHING except honey which should not be given until the baby gets a year old.
American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) also advise that parents/guardians should stick to feeding their babies one solid per time and wait for about a week before introducing them to new solid meals. Doing this helps to rule out allergies if any.
Before feeding your baby solid, ensure they’re seated upright in a highchair to prevent choking.
Satisfy The Babies’ Desire To Suck
Babies have an innate sucking reflex that makes them want to suck at all times. If you discover that your baby usually sucks or chews their tongue due to sucking reflexes, you can give them a pacifier to aid in sucking.
Although many parents frown at giving their babies pacifiers, studies reveal that non-nutritive sucking is a proven calming mechanism that relieves painful sensations.
Pacifiers also have a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome; hence giving your baby a pacifier is a proven method of reducing your Baby’s chewing on their tongue.
Establish A Feeding Schedule
Babies tend to chew their tongues when it’s close to their feeding time, so you may need to adjust your feeding schedule whenever you spot your baby chewing their tongue.
Endeavor to feed your baby on time to prevent them from chewing their tongue as a hunger clue.
Introduce Teething Foods
Once a baby starts teething, they tend to start chewing their tongue to ease the pain in their gum. To help prevent this, you can give them teething foods.
Teething toys can also serve as an alternative to teething foods. Still, recent research shows that most toys have chemicals like bisphenol -A (BPA), triclosan, and triclocarban that may harm babies.
Teething foods are a little messier but much healthier and serve a much better purpose. If you need help with which teething food to get for your baby, you can try out mango seed with pulp, peeled carrot, and partially raw apple.
It’s best to use them fresh but ensure you wash them thoroughly and refrigerate them for a couple of hours. Another fantastic thing about using teething food is that babies often get used to the taste of these foods and prefer them as they grow old.
When To Consider Seeing A Doctor About Baby Chewing On Tongue
Baby chewing on the tongue is common and shouldn’t be a cause of concern. Babies chew tongues in a bid to learn how to use them properly. It’s a habit that usually goes off as babies age and develops.
Though tongue chewing is an everyday habit among babies, there are times when this could be a cause for concern, usually when it’s done over an extended period.
If you discover that your baby chews their tongue over an extended period and you’ve tried everything possible to make them stop, but all to no avail, it’s time to see a pediatrician.
Here’s a list of likely scenarios that should make you visit a doctor about baby chewing their tongue
When Tongue Chewing Continues After the Baby’s First Birthday
Tongue thrust and sucking reflex usually cool off once babies reach 12 months old, so if your baby is still chewing their tongue after 12 months, you should consider visiting a doctor.
Babies usually stop tongue chewing once they’re over 12 months, but certain anatomical issues could cause them to continue tongue chewing, which would most likely interfere with their eating. If you suspect your baby has an anatomical problem, you should visit a pediatrician for further help resolving the issue.
When Baby Chews Tongue After Biting
Tongue chewing usually results in biting. Babies tend to bite their tongues accidentally during chewing; This usually results in pain and often prevents them from continuing chewing.
But if you notice that your baby keeps chewing their tongue after biting, even when they’re in pain, you’ll need to consult the services of a doctor.
But in a nutshell, baby chewing on the tongue isn’t an uncommon thing. It’s part of their growth process, so if it’s not hurting them, you have nothing to worry about. It’s only a matter of time before they outgrow the habit.
It Interferes With Eating.
If a baby chewing on the tongue interferes with their feeding, you need to seek the help of a doctor. Chewing on the tongue alters breathing, and if your baby gasps for air anytime they chew their tongue, it could be that there’s an orofacial problem affecting the tongue, pharynx, and mouth.
Baby Bites The Tongue With Excessive Force.
Once you notice that your baby chews their tongue with so much pressure leading to accidental bites and bleeding, you should see a doctor.
Anomalies Or Incorrect Oral Development
Incorrect oral development and other anomalies may cause the tongue to be incorrectly positioned, leading to babies chewing it constantly.
Babies can also have enlarged tongues due to genetic conditions, which could lead to babies chewing their tongues.
Other anomalies include protruding tongue, often associated with cold skin, poor activity, constipation, and poor feeding.
All these symptoms are seen in hypothyroidism in babies. Hypothyroidism can be present from birth and often results in other mental and growth retardation. If parents notice it early, it can be treated appropriately.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Tongue Chewing A Sign Of Autism?
When individuals have autism, they bite and chew their tongues repeatedly, but it is not an affirmative sign of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in babies.
Autism Spectrum Disorder is a more complex health condition that can only be diagnosed after carrying out a series of tests at different stages of a child’s life.
Is It Normal For Babies To Chew Their Tongue Even When There’s Nothing In Their Mouth?
Whenever you spot your baby chewing their mouth, even when there’s nothing in it, they’re chewing or sucking their tongue.
Babies are born with sucking reflexes that give them an innate desire to suck during the first 12 months of their lives. Therefore, it’s normal for babies to suck or chew their mouth even when there’s nothing, as this could either mean they’re hungry or may occur due to their sucking reflex.
Baby sucking on their tongue is an essential part of the child’s growth process, so you need not worry about it as they usually outgrow the habit with time.
What Is The Difference Between Chewing, Sucking, And Tongue Thrusting?
In this context, chewing is when babies make mouth movements as though they are biting down on something in their mouth, as though they are eating.
While sucking, on the other hand, is when a baby pulls in liquid or air through the mouth without using their teeth. For instance, when they are breastfeeding.
And the last one, Tongue thrusting, refers to a situation where babies push their tongues forward, against the back of their teeth, or between the top and bottom teeth, when swallowing or speaking.
Babies sometimes tend to tongue thrust until they’re six months old.
Babies chewing on their tongues is an essential part of their growth process. During the first 12 months of their life, they have a strong urge to suck, which often results in chewing and sucking on their tongue.
Different babies suck their tongues for various reasons depending on their age and what they’re trying to communicate.
While some babies suck their tongues as a hunger clue, some others do so to indicate readiness for solid. As parents, always find out why your baby cheats on the tongue to enable you to take the necessary action to satisfy their urge to chew.