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The act of the saliva flowing out of the baby’s mouth unintentionally is known as drooling. We have six salivary glands that produce saliva for us and when excess saliva is made, drooling occurs. When you see your baby drooling a lot, it is due to the underdeveloped muscles in his mouth.
Is Drooling Common in Babies?
Drooling is normal during the first two years of the baby’s life. Since the infant is not in complete control of the function of swallowing and mouth muscles, you may find your baby drooling while sleeping too. You can expect this condition to continue till the baby is 18 to 24 months old. Drooling is quite common during the teething period, so be ready for a lot of drool on clothes and things around the baby.
Beyond four years of age, drooling is not normal. The child, especially at an older age, can be embarrassed due to the uncontrollable drooling and lead to introverted behaviour during later years.
Developmental Stages of Drooling Among Babies
Drooling is completely typical at certain points of the baby’s development.The following are the development stages of drooling in babies:
- 1-3 Months :
Drooling is rare when your baby is always in a face-up position during the first three months of its life. However, some baby drool may be noticed at 3 months when he is in a supported sitting or horizontal position.
2. 6 Months :
Drooling at this stage is slightly more controlled but drooling continues when the baby is reaching out to objects or toys or babbling. Drooling is noticed if your baby is teething at this stage.
3. 9 Months :
At this stage, drooling is reduced while the baby is rolling over or crawling, but teething can still stimulate drooling.
4. 15 Months :
By this time, your baby will be walking and running but drooling will rarely happen during these activities. However, fine motor tasks which need concentration can bring about drooling. Teething can also cause drooling.
5. 18 Months :
Your baby no longer drools during regular activities and fine motor activities. Drooling, however, can be seen during feeding and dressing.
6. 24 Months :
At this stage, drooling is minimal or almost non-existent.
Does Drooling Play an Important Role in Baby’s Development?
Yes, drooling does play an important role in your baby’s growth. It indicates that the baby’s teeth are beginning to grow. Drooling and saliva bubbles are also a sign of physical development in toddlers. They indicate that your baby is now going through a new period of growth. When your baby drools after smelling milk or food, you know that your baby’s sense of smell is growing.
Drool contains enzymes which are useful for the baby to digest semi-solid or solid food when he is four to six months old. This saliva neutralizes stomach acid and helps in developing the baby’s intestinal lining fully. It binds the food together due to its slick nature that facilitates swallowing.
What is Excessive Drooling?
When there is an involuntary flow of saliva from the child’s mouth after he has passed the normal age of drooling, it can be termed as excessive drooling. Parents should worry when babies drool a lot when there is no common cause for the same. Although it is often attributed to overproduction of saliva, excessive drooling happens because of poor coordination between mouth and tongue. This lack of coordination results in bad swallowing.
What Are the Causes of Excessive Drooling in Infants?
Excessive drooling in babies and toddlers is caused due to the following reasons:
- Teething :
Although a baby does not actually grow a tooth till he is 6-8 months old, the process begins quite early. That is the reason why, around three months of age, your baby may begin drooling at a rapid rate. This happens primarily because drool is produced in large quantities when the tooth is pushing its way through the gums.
2. Open mouth posture :
Your baby may keep his mouth open for longer periods due to a blocked nose or plainly out of habit. Due to this, he may not swallow the saliva at regular intervals, thus leading to drooling.
3. Focus or Concentration :
Babies or toddlers are unable to swallow their saliva when they concentrate on a task at hand or an interesting object. This results in excessive drooling.
4. Food :
It is seen that certain kinds of food, mostly those acidic in nature, are responsible for triggering excess drooling.
5. Neurological Disorders :
Many neurological disorders like Bell’s palsy and Cerebral Palsy display symptoms like drooling and excessive salivating. Bell’s palsy is a temporary nerve condition which impacts one portion of the face. A droopy eyelid on the side on which excess drooling happens can indicate this condition. Cerebral Palsy is a disorder that can have an impact on the oral-muscular control of the baby.
6. Medicine’s Side-Effects :
The normal functioning of a child’s facial muscles can be affected due to the consumption of certain medicines. In some cases, the muscle tone of the lips is increased or decreased, and this induces excessive drooling.
How is Drooling Treated in a Child?
Normal drooling does not need treatment of any kind since it is a normal part of growing up. It needs medical attention if your child isn’t a toddler anymore and the drool quantity is significantly large. You should consider treatment if the social life of your child and his daily activities are being affected. The following areas are evaluated by the doctor to make sure that the condition needs to be treated:
• If the baby can seal his lips properly and move the tongue around.
• If swallowing is normal
• If the child has a stuffy or blocked nose
• If the child has a natural swallowing reflex
• The jaw’s firmness and the child’s posture
Post these evaluations, the following line of treatment is followed:
• Helping the child in practising a closed lip stance
• Reducing acidic food from the child’s diet
• Enhancing the child’s capacity to swallow
• Tightening of face muscles
• Improving oral-sensory awareness to help the child understand when his mouth or face is wet.
• Carrying out oral motor therapy to give strength to jaw, cheeks and lips. This helps in proper swallowing of saliva and thus reduces drooling.
• Doctors also suggest using a chin cup which is a dental device to position the tongue properly and helps lip closure.
What is a Drool Rash?
Due to constant dribbling of saliva through the mouth, your baby’s lower lips, cheeks, neck and chest can show signs of skin irritation. You will notice red coloured, uneven rashes in these areas. This baby rash around the mouth from drooling is known as drool rash. Wash the affected area properly, pat it dry, and apply a lanolin-based cream to soothe it. Tie a bib around the baby’s neck to keep the drool from spreading to the neck and chest area. Apply petroleum jelly to the affected area to keep it moisturized and promote healing. However, speak to your doctor before applying any creams or lotions on your baby’s skin.
Outlook for Drooling
Consulting the doctor is recommended if your child has too much of drooling even after he crosses the age of four. Uncontrollable drooling that is caused by medical conditions can be addressed through consultation with the paediatrician. If therapy or medication does not provide relief, you should consider a higher level of treatment.
Drooling is a natural way of helping the baby to moisten and soften solid foods and makes it easy to swallow. Though it fulfils many important functions for the baby, keep a close watch if the drooling increases and shows no signs of abating after age four. Get medical attention to address the problem before it results in a much larger one.
Also Read: Oral Thrush in Babies