Babies are known for putting things in their mouths. Even before birth, babies have been seen sucking on their thumbs and, once born, they continue to develop “oral gratification”. Babies love to suck and mouth for pleasure. As newborns, they can soothe themselves by sucking on a pacifier, breast, bottle, or even a thumb and, as they continue to grow and develop, they purposely grab objects and put them in their mouths as means of exploration.
Why do babies put everything in their mouths?
- Babies use all their senses to explore their world including the sense of taste.
- It allows them to calm and self-soothe.
- Mouthing allows them to develop coordination in their mouth, jaw, cheeks, tongue and lips.
- It allows the mouth to become accustomed to different textures and sensations, which is great for transitioning from breast/bottle to solids.
- It provides comfort when they are teething (note: the mouthing period does not necessarily mean your child is teething).
Is my baby at risk for choking?
Babies have a natural gag reflex that allows them to expel objects that go far enough in their mouths. Nonetheless, it’s very important that you make sure your baby only plays with safe toys that don’t pose any choking hazards such as buttons, small toy eyes, or beads since choking is a very real and scary possibility. A great tool to assess if a toy is dangerous is to run it through a toilet paper roll. If it slides right through, it is considered a choking hazard. If your baby is mobile, make sure to do some thorough baby-proofing to remove any dangerous items that could harm your baby if he puts them in his mouth. Make sure to avoid giving your baby foods that could choke him, such as raw hard fruits and veggies, sausage, whole grapes, nuts, popcorn, etc. Finally, take a CPR class just to be safe!
Do I need to worry about germs?
Although we don’t recommend that your baby mouths dirty toys, rest assured that he will not get sick from dust. What makes children sick are viruses and bacteria, so if your little one does not share toys with other children who are potentially sick or does not encounter objects which could be handled with unclean hands, your little one most probably will not get sick. It’s still best to venture on the safe side and practice proper hygiene, try to keep your little one’s environment clean, and give his toys a spruce every so often.
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