You are worried because everything goes into your baby’s mouth, from dirty toys to old pieces of food picked from underneath the table! Luckily, you are not the first, or the last parent, ever to be frustrated by mouthing. See, it’s so normal that it even has a name.

Why does your baby put everything into his mouth?

Mouthing is your baby putting everything into his mouth. From age 3-4 months onwards, your baby is now able to grasp things. He has not yet developed the sensors in his hands fully. Therefore, he cannot know for instance that something is hard, soft, smooth or rough just by touching it. He uses his gums to sense texture. So, everything goes into his mouth to enable him make sense of his surroundings.

 Also, from around 6 months, your baby’s milk teeth begin to erupt. It can be quite uncomfortable to have those little teeth pushing through your little one’s gums. Then he discovers it eases his discomfort if he rubs his gums on something. So, mouthing to the rescue. Somehow, babies also just love to have stuff in their mouths. Same reason why they love to breastfeed. It quickly develops into a self-soothing behaviour. Babies mouth when they are bored, or when they are over-stimulated and need to unwind. They also mouth when they are feeling sleepy.

Does mouthing benefit your baby?

Apart from being soothing and helping them to understand their world, there’s an extra benefit of mouthing to your little one. As he puts objects into his mouth, he introduces small amounts of germs into his body (yuck!). These help his body to prepare to fight the germs when encountered the next time. Therefore, mouthing helps your baby’s body to build immunity.

Can mouthing harm your baby?

Mouthing can be harmful to your baby if not properly supervised. Your baby can choke on small hard objects, like buttons. A hot object can burn him. Additionally, a sharp object can cut him. Likewise, drugs, detergents or other harmful substances can poison him.

How do you manage mouthing?

You really do not want to prevent your baby from putting everything into his mouth, because it is normal. However, there are a few things you should prohibit, by saying a firm no-no. Don’t let your baby pick stones, beads, nuts or other small hard objects, for instance. Better still, keep your baby’s surroundings free from these, as well as anything that can harm your child.

Provide a lot of safe alternatives to mouth on. Teething rusks, or large plastic toys with rough surfaces are great. You need to clean these regularly.  There are some traditional alternatives as well, like half-ripened pawpaw slices for a baby who is more than 6 months old.

Mouthing is not all bad

Mouthing is not all bad. It is quite a beneficial habit. Mouthing helps your baby to make sense of his environment. It also keeps him entertained, relieves itching gums and helps build immunity. What you need to do to help your baby is to ensure that he mouths safely.

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