There are many reasons why your baby may be sticking their tongue out: hunger, feeling full, playing, a sign of reflux, teething, growth spurts, a small tongue, a large tongue, or even Downs Syndrome. Normally there is no cause for concern as this is part of their development. If you are concerned please see your doctor.
Congratulations on the new baby!
I’m sure you spend most of your day just appreciating the beauty and cuteness of your newborn.
I remember staring at my babies when they were tiny! It’s just a mother thing, right?
But then, the longer we look at our babies, the more we observe this funny and peculiar habit of theirs!
They love sticking out their tongues.
Is your baby sticking his or her tongue out all the time?
Funny as it is to look at, this is a baby’s form of communication.
Your baby is trying to tell you something
Baby Sticking His Tongue Out Explained
Certain reflexes or involuntary movements are already present when the baby is born.
Such reflexes like rooting and sucking spontaneously occur as the baby reacts to stimuli such as stroking the baby’s mouth and touching the roof of the baby’s mouth respectively.
These reflexes help a newborn survive his or her first few months after birth.
Part of the sucking reflex is the tongue-thrust reflex, this is when your baby sticks out his or her tongue to help him/her latch on to the nipple during feeding.
As your baby’s tongue-thrust reflex grows stronger, he/she learns to use this as a way to communicate with you!
Aside from crying, one of the first ways that a newborn baby communicates is by using his or her tongue, this means, if your baby is sticking his/her tongue out all the time, your baby is trying to tell you something!
But what exactly is your baby saying?
This action may mean different things depending on the situation.
Below are the most common reasons why your newborn baby is sticking his/her tongue out.
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Why is my Baby Sticking his Tongue Out?
One of the most common reason is that your baby is trying to tell you that he or she is hungry.
You may notice your baby doing this along with other movements like putting his or her hands on the mouth, lip smacking, and hand clenching.
Those usually are your cue that it’s feeding time.
There’s no need to wait for the baby to start wailing.
Did you know that crying is already a late sign that your baby is hungry? So, watch out for those early signs.
Why is my Baby Sticking his Tongue Out After Feeding?
If you notice your baby sticking his tongue out during or after feeding, your baby is trying to signal you that he/she is already full and does not want to feed anymore.
When your baby has had his or her fill, he or she will start sticking his or her tongue out in an attempt to push the nipple away.
Another sign that your baby is full is when he or she starts pulling away from the milk source, be it the breast or the bottle.
Your baby may even attempt to push you away. If you see these gestures, it’s time to stop feeding.
It is very important that you know these cues as overfeeding your baby may result to infant obesity.
Why is my Baby Sticking his Tongue Out but He’s Not Hungry?
If your baby is full but is still sticking his tongue out, your baby may be playing with you.
Babies love playing with their parents (or primary caregiver) and since they have limited motor skills, they use the one they have mastered, their tongues.
Use this as an opportunity to bond with y our baby.
Playing creates a great connection between parent and child so go ahead and stick your tongue out, too!
Your baby may imitate you or they initiate it so you can respond.
Is Baby Sticking Tongue Out a Sign of Reflux?
Some babies, unfortunately, experience acid reflux within the first year in their life.
This is when baby’s food goes back up from the tummy causing a spit-up.
Other symptoms may include gagging, irritability after eating, arches back and sticks out the tongue after or during eating.
Thankfully, infant reflux usually goes away on its own between four to six months, some babies continue to display the reflex up to their 12th to 18th months.
If you are concerned about infant reflux, talk to your baby’s pediatrician for proper medical advice.
Baby Sticking Tongue Out at 3 Months
Babies can get quite obsessed with their tongues, if your baby continues to stick out his or her tongue at three months but doesn’t show other symptoms, most probably your baby is just playing.
Use this time to bond and play with your little one. Make faces, funny noises, and try to see of you can get your baby to copy you.
Baby Sticking Tongue Out at 6 months
As recommended by doctors, we start introducing solid foods to our baby at 6 months but if you notice your baby sticking out his or her tongue during feeding time, this could mean that your baby is not yet ready for solids.
This is a natural (and so amazing!) instinct or reflex that prevents infants from choking.
When this happens, take it as a sign to try some other time as your baby isn’t ready for anything else other than milk.
Baby Sticking Tongue Out During Teething
Another reason why your 6-month-old baby is sticking his or her tongue out is that your baby may be teething. When the tooth starts to erupt from the gums, this may cause swelling and redness.
Needless to say, it can cause discomfort to your baby. When this happens, you might notice your baby sticking his or her tongue out, there’s excessive drooling, and increased fussiness.
Do note that although the first tooth does not come out until 6 months, some babies start teething at 2 months and this is perfectly normal.
If you feel that there’s a need for concern, do not hesitate to contact your child’s pediatrician so you can get proper advice on how to provide comfort to your child.
Baby Sticking Tongue Out at 9 Months
Infant tongue-thrust reflex usually goes away on its own between 4 to 6 months; if your baby is still displaying the reflex at 9 months and onwards, it may have become your baby’s habit.
Your baby thinks it is fun to do and is no cause for major concern most of the time.
Down Syndrome as a Possible Reasons Why Your Baby is Sticking Out His Tongue
We also need to acknowledge the fact that Infant tongue-thrust reflex can be a symptom of Down Syndrome.
Below are some of the symptoms associated with Down Syndrome and why they cause babies to stick out their tongues.
Please note that not all babies with Down syndrome will display or have all of the symptoms mentioned here and of some babies may have other symptoms not on the list below thus it should not be used for diagnosis or treatment.
• Small Mouth – Some babies with Down Syndrome have small oral mouths/cavities; smaller upper jaws and it would seem too small for their tongues thus they stick it out
• Poor Muscle Tone – Another effect of the syndrome is poor muscle tone or hypotonia. This means that these babies are unable to suck effectively and have their mouths open most of the time. The tongue may stick out as a result of poor muscle control
• Mouth Breathing – Another symptom of Down Syndrome is mouth breathing. This is still due to hypotonia or poor musculoskeletal control which explains why they usually have their mouths open and tongues sticking out.
Although Down Syndrome can be detected prior to birth or shortly after birth, if your baby is undiagnosed but you think your baby has these symptoms, it is best to bring your child to a doctor or a specialist right away for proper medical observation and intervention if necessary.
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Other Reasons Why Your Baby Sticks Out His Tongue
Large tongue – If your baby sticks out his or her tongue more than usual and you think the tongue looks bigger for its mouth, you may want to have your baby evaluated for Macroglossia.
This is the condition where the baby has a larger than average sized tongue; caused by issues in the blood vessels or muscle development problems.
When to See a Doctor?
While tongue reflex or tongue extrusion is a perfectly normal thing and a natural reflex that helps the baby protect themselves to survive , if it continues well beyond infancy or is accompanied by other symptoms like the ones mentioned above, it is best that you bring your baby to his or her pediatrician for proper evaluation.
It is important that you get proper medical advice so you can start on necessary interventions, therapies, and treatments to help avoid other issues from arising. Remember that persistent and habitual tongue reflex in babies may cause speech development issues as well as teeth alignment problems.
In closing, babies sticking out their tongues a lot is normal in a developmental sense. It is an innate and natural reflex of a newborn thus should not cause unnecessary worry or concern on the part of the parents.
Occasionally, it may have underlying reasons if displayed more than usual. You can also speak to your child’s doctor for your own peace of mind.