His favourite teddy bear, his storybook, the piece of thread on the mat, yesterday’s food on the floor – Does anything of interest to your baby ends up in his mouth? Is your little explorer on taste binge and your mind is full of what, why, ifs and buts? To help you out clear the clutter in your mind, here is everything you should know about your baby’s mouthing habit.
What is mouthing?
The baby grabbing and putting any objects in its mouth is called mouthing. The objects can be anything and they are not chosen on the basis of cleanliness (usually the dirtiest of the objects are often picked by our little ones), texture, taste or scent.
Though there are so many sensory organs in human body, why does the baby instinctively put everything in its mouth? Here is the answer. They lack fine motor control. The babies can’t use the fingers and hands to explore the things. Until the baby is at least seven months, they don’t have the ability to stroke or poke the objects. But the baby’s mouth is highly active and has more nerve endings per millimetre which could help the babies to find out what something feels like. Usually, by 10 months, the babies start using the hands more to discover the things around them.
Concerns and consolations:
1. Dust, Germs and Viruses: Dust which is accompanied with the things picked up from the floor doesn’t make the baby sick. But the germs and viruses transmitted from a child who is sick make your baby ill.
2. Choking hazard: This is always a possibility. To stay safe, it is always best to give the toys or objects which can’t fit in your baby’s mouth.
Precautions during your baby’s mouthing phase:
· Do not scold the baby when he puts everything in his mouth out of curiosity. Scolding might dampen his spirit of learning.
· Inspect your house at your baby’s eye level to identify unsafe objects.
· Potentially poisonous things (such as medicines, detergents, nail polish, wine, etc) should be kept out of reach to the babies, preferably in locked cupboards.
· Check the plants in your home and garden and get rid of all the poisonous plants.
· Patrol the house for any choke-size objects such as coins, toy pieces, etc and store at a place where the baby can’t reach. One of the easiest ways to make sure the object is not choke-size is the object should not fit in the opening of toilet-paper tube.
· Clear up the spoiling food (such as food in your pet’s bowl) or food on the wet floor or damp areas as soon as possible. These are the places where bacteria multiply rapidly.
Benefits of mouthing:
1. Window to the world: Infant’s everything-in-mouth habit is a key component of baby’s development. The more objects they put in mouth and feel it, the more they know about the world around them.
2. Hygiene Hypothesis: The hypothesis states that lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, parasites and symbiotic microorganisms increases susceptibility to diseases by suppressing the natural development of immune system. But mouthing repeatedly exposes the baby to infectious agents during infancy and supports the natural development of immune system and at later, guards the children against autoimmune disorders.
3. Workout for oral motor musculature: mouthing and chewing/biting the things is the way how tongue, lips, cheeks and jaws learn to move and coordinate. This helps in strengthening the mouth muscles to eat food and to make speech sounds at the later stages.
4. The textures and sensations experienced during mouthing the objects encourage the baby in transition to solid food later on.
5. Mouthing helps the babies to calm down and self-soothe.