Why Do Babies Put Everything In Their Mouths And How Much Should You Worry?

As a first-time mom, I did my best to raise my son in a germ-free bubble. Sure, I could immediately sanitize his binkies as soon as they hit the floor, but what about everything that he chose on his own to gnaw on with his choppers? Emphasis on EVERYTHING! Before they can even crawl, anything within your sweet pea’s grasp seems to head straight for their mouth. But, before you begin begging your pediatrician to prescribe antibiotics for your tiny tot, relax: they’re actually learning by mouthing!
by Michelle Bruns

pregnancy testWorld explorer

As your bundle of joy learns about the world around him, including controlling his own movements, he uses all five senses to explore. The way things look, feel, taste, smell, and sound are his doorway to early knowledge and development.  

And, although he may not have control of his hand and arm movements, he's quite good at nibbling and gumming with his mouth. According to Penney Hames, child psychologist, "Your baby's mouth has more nerve endings per square millimeter than any other part of her body, so if she really wants to find out what something tastes or feels like, she puts it in her mouth."


Before we chalk up all this behavior to tactile learning, we should acknowledge that your toddler may also be teething. I've heard on several occasions that teething is so painful for toddlers that adults themselves would not be able to cope with the discomfort. So, it's only natural that babies reach for whatever is near to find relief on those throbbing gums. Although you can baby proof his surroundings as best you can, perhaps providing acceptable relief can help curb the amount of objects that are gummed to death. Frozen teething rings and ice cold washcloths have been known for generations of mothers to be just what the doctor ordered. This way, your baby can find relief without stifling his opportunity for tactile learning.


Although germs can make your baby sick, a few small doses of the tiny foe are just as likely through contact with other children and their toys. So, as long as you are conscious of what your tot is putting in his mouth (especially after it has been in someone else's mouth), the phrase "God made dirt and dirt don't hurt" may apply.

Choking hazards

With any type of tactile learning, keeping kids safe is at the top of the list. Safekids.org advises that, "Children, especially those under age 3, are particularly vulnerable to airway obstruction death and injury due to their small upper airways, their relative inexperience with chewing, and their natural tendency to put objects in their mouths." The rule of thumb? If it is small enough to fit in a toilet paper tube, then it's too small for your little guy. Also keep in mind that objects acceptable for children's "open mouth, insert everything" philosophy should be free of sharp edges and small pieces.

Whether your index finger or his favorite teddy bear is his number one choice for chewing on, hopefully you can have peace of mind knowing he's actually doing his part to learn about the world around him.

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