In this Article
A baby will explore his environment and learn from it. As the baby’s immune system develops and adjusts during the first year, the young one will use all senses, that is, smell, touch, see, taste and hearing. With those tiny hands, the baby will first grasp and then move the hand straight into the mouth. This process of exploration is called ‘mouthing’ and is perfectly normal. Let’s look at why they do this, what are the risks of doing so and what precautions should be taken in this phase.
Why Do Babies Put Everything in Their Mouth?
In the first year, with your baby putting toys in the mouth, you are sure to be concerned and will try to prevent it. However, the mouthing process is perfectly normal and means that the baby is learning to explore, taste, see, touching, hold, hear, smell and lick everything. The mouth and hands are baby’s ways of exploring and learning about different shapes, textures, materials, odours, tastes, sounds and so much more.
Are you wondering when do babies start putting things in the mouth? Young babies try to put their fists in the mouth. Maybe even their feet! It is fine until they are about 7 months old. Then they are in control of their hands and use their mouth to explore. Slowly the flailing hands start to grasp objects and then control them to move it into the mouth. The process of exploration moves into reaching, shoving, grabbing, swatting, patting and so on. They learn what tastes good and what doesn’t and have the most divine fun exploring even yucky things that mothers would never dream of putting in baby’s mouth.
Babies also learn to suck on the thumb which is their way of communicating and responding to stimuli like hunger, boredom and so on. Most mothers discourage this habit and rightly so as prolonged thumb sucking can have many negative effects.
What Are the Possible Risks of Putting things in Mouth?
Baby can choke on its positive journey of explorations. The not-so-easy thing to do is to ensure that small objects cannot be reached by those tiny hands. Get down on the floor at baby’s eye levels and look around at what objects are harmful. A thumb-rule to follow is to ensure that objects that pass through a toilet-paper tube are unsafe. Rough-edged objects, toys that can be broken into pieces, glass objects, the pet’s food bowl, standing buckets of water etc will be explored and can lead to scratches, bruises, and even accidents.
Yes, mouthing cannot be prevented. During the process babies even lick objects on the floor. The best way to prevent infections is cleanliness and frequently cleaning floors, toys and surfaces baby is in touch with. Don’t worry about it as infections are caused by viruses and bacteria that an ailing person has.
Since this phase has many positive outcomes just ensure that your baby doesn’t share toys with a sick child. Clean and wash all toys, linen, and surfaces with a mild disinfectant and encourage the little one to play in groups. They learn while having fun to touch faces, bump their noses, give kisses, taste everything from blankets, their clothes and whatever catches their imagination. Group play and supervised exploration is the key to a safe mouthing phase. A little bit of dust and germs that cannot be prevented won’t make the baby sick.
When Do Babies Stop Putting Everything in the Mouth?
Starting as early as 7 to 12 months, babies start mouthing objects. Normally by the age of two years, fingers are used to explore. And by the age of three, most children would have stopped putting objects into their mouths. If your child is still getting everything into his mouth and sucking his thumb at the age of 4 years you must check with the doctor to build in corrective practices.
Precautions to Take During The Mouthing Phase
With your baby chewing on everything here are some precautions for a safe and not obsessive parenting experience.
1. Clear out small objects
Check, recheck and remove any mouth-sized objects from baby’s reach. (Loose change, pet food bowl, small toys, marbles and anything that can fit into baby’s mouth). You will also need to clear out chemicals, cosmetics, and the like that can be potentially dangerous.
2. Rely on positive reinforcement
Do not yell at your baby if he is about to put something into his mouth that isn’t safe. Instead, replace it with something that is safe.
3. Practice ‘no’
It is best to teach your baby what ‘No’ means so that he can stop mouthing things when he is asked to.
It is very likely that baby’s put things in their mouth to chew due to teething. To prevent this you can get some teething rings and give them to him. You can also freeze them to give your little one relief from the teething pain.
The mouthing phase lasts a little while and can be made into a safe exploratory journey for both you and the baby. Enjoy this communicative and exploratory phase with a not very obsessive germ-phobic attitude and all will be well.