As babies get older, many parents will notice that their babies are constantly chewing unconsciously even when there is nothing in their mouths. While these actions look cute, they say a lot about a baby’s development.
This article will explain why your baby chews with nothing in his mouth. You can also explore more ways to prevent this from happening too often.
Why Do Babies Chew On Nothing In Their Mouths?
Chewing and sucking on the tongue is one of the instincts of babies when breastfeeding. These reflexes help the baby adjust to the proper breast position during sucking. In addition, sucking and chewing on the tongue also release chemicals that help relax the mind, like dopamine and serotonin.
During the different stages of infant development, this behavior can occur. They can begin as early as two months; however, they occur four to six months in exceptional cases.
After a few weeks, this reflex will level off and decrease. However, some babies can maintain this reflex and develop them as nighttime sleep habits.
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1. Newborn to Three Months Old
For infants, three months of age and younger, the chewing motion corresponds to the reflex for the act of suckling breast milk.
Around this time, the ability to suck on the tongue can thrive. Your little one will be curious about everything and want to put it in your mouth.
One of the most obvious signs, when a baby is chewing his tongue or smacking lips, is when he’s hungry. In this case, double-check your baby’s feeding time to make sure it’s time to provide.
Meanwhile, the baby will stick out his tongue when hungry and begin to perform the air chewing motion. Parents need to pay attention to these signs. If your baby does this often, your feeding schedule is being built up unevenly.
Newborns often suck or chew on anything to satisfy their need to suckle. If there is nothing in their mouth, they will continue to chew their tongue. Meanwhile, the older babies chose to chew on their feet and hands.
Another cause of your little one chewing constantly is the extrusion reflex. The effect of this reflex is to support the ability to latch onto the nipple or bottle. You can stimulate this reflex better and faster by playing with your baby.
2. Four Months to Six Months Old
Babies between the ages of four and six months have begun to develop strong perceptions of their world. The act of chewing is one of the most prominent sensory activities at this age. So, it won’t be strange if you discover your little one does them unconsciously.
When your baby is six months old, tiny baby teeth will begin to emerge from the gums and cause pain.
The experience is so uncomfortable and alien that the child will have to find a way to soothe himself. As a result, they will chew on their tongue or any object their parents put in their mouth.
Many babies even chew their fingers as soon as they realize they can. If teething is the leading cause of tongue or finger sucking, you may notice several other symptoms. These include gingivitis and excessive drooling.
Besides chewing on the tongue, parents can play an essential role in alleviating the pain and discomfort of teething. Some other treatments use gels, powders, beads, or teething toys. Depending on your baby’s health and the advice of your pediatrician, you can make the right decision.
Teething gels or pills have an anesthetic or antiseptic as the main ingredient. As a result, they can prevent infection and effectively relieve pain. In contrast, teething toys are often refrigerated to soothe sore gums. Similar tools are a clean finger or cold spoon for temporary pain relief.
Ready for Solid Food
Among the powerful innate reflexes of the newborn, the tongue-thrust reflex is one of the most prominent. The body develops this habit as a defense mechanism for the child from choking on any hard object in his mouth.
Usually, babies develop this reflex when they are four to six months old. The frequency will decrease as they get older.
Your little one can maneuver her tongue around her mouth and suck on anything. They also develop the ability to chew and swallow proficiently. These signs indicate that your baby is ready to transition from breast milk to solid foods.
Newborns are entirely blank pages, and they will undoubtedly be eager to explore the world. Their bodies are also an exciting object of discovery.
As your child explores the palate, they will enjoy feeling their tongue. The four-month-old stage is just the right time for a baby to discover this organ.
They will constantly chew their tongue to feel its shape and mechanism of action. Parents will not need to worry too much about this phenomenon because your baby is simply curious.
What Can You Do?
Although tongue chewing is expected during a baby’s development, parents can still be concerned. Fortunately, there are a few methods you can experiment with to prevent this behavior from happening too often.
1. Check for Hunger Cues
Chewing is one of the signals that the baby is starving. So, consider this factor.
Always be on the lookout for your baby’s signs of hunger. Some common symptoms are opening his mouth, sticking his tongue out, puckering his lips, or chewing on a washcloth in his hand.
If you notice these signs, remember when you last fed your baby.
2. Give Solid Food
For babies as young as six months old, tongue chewing can signify that breast milk or formula isn’t enough to satisfy their hunger. Instead, solid foods would be a good addition.
The mom can make semi-solid or pureed food for her children to get used to slowly. The texture of the food will thicken over time.
Contact your pediatrician immediately if you have any concerns or doubts about your baby’s health.
3. Maintain A Feeding Schedule
Unusual hunger pangs can also make a child want to chew nothing. The method to overcome this phenomenon is to build a scientific feeding schedule.
Keep feeding times fixed to get in the habit of your little one. They will gradually adapt after following this schedule for several weeks.
4. Create Distraction
Babies are usually delighted and excited when they first discover the tongue on the palate. At this point, it will be challenging for you to distract them and stop.
Some of the methods available include talking to your child, using musical games, or chewing toys.
5. Offer Teething Toys
In cases where your baby’s chew-nothing behavior is affected by teething gum irritations, offer soft and gentle toys.
You should choose toys or specialized tools for teething. They are easier to clean and come with the option of cooling in the refrigerator for effective pain relief.
Can A 7-Week-Old Baby Be Teething?
Babies at seven weeks old have begun to notice objects and want to grab them whenever. More specifically, some babies may develop a teething phase.
Teething is a long journey for a baby. However, some children may develop earlier than usual. This phenomenon may be the cause of your little one’s sudden cries. If you notice something out of the ordinary, contact your pediatrician immediately.
Is Chewing Tongue A Sign Of Autism?
While chewing nothing is a sign that parents often worry about when observing their child, they are not necessarily a sign of autism.
Autism is a complex disease with many different signs in each stage. You will need the support of a doctor to get the most accurate diagnosis.
Remember that every child has stages of development. Sometimes these strange behaviors are just for the baby to explore the world around.
How Do You Know If Your Baby Is Hungry Or Wants A Pacifier?
When babies chew with nothing for long periods, it could be a hunger cue. This action is usually lengthy and is accompanied by a good latch. However, if his sucking motion is shallower and shorter, it’s most likely just an expression of discovery. Your little one is looking for a pacifier.
There are many reasons to explain the phenomenon of why a baby chews with nothing in his mouth. The most common reasons are hunger cues, teething, or mouth exploring.
In most cases, this phenomenon is not dangerous and harms the baby’s health. They are even indicative of a mature stage.
The frequency of tongue chewing will gradually decrease and disappear as the baby matures. If it persists and is accompanied by pain, the best advice is to contact your pediatrician.