Babies like sticking out their tongues, as well as use their mouths in several different ways. If you notice your baby sticking out their tongue frequently, you might wonder if this is normal behaviour or not. The short response is yes; it is a completely natural infant activity to stick the tongue out.
Babies are born with a fast sucking reflex and a feeding instinct. Part of the reflex is the tongue-thrusting reflex, in which babies stick out their tongues to avoid choking and help latch on to the nipple.
The first way babies experience the world is to use their mouths too. Mouthing things and sticking out their tongues is very common for them, as a part of their feeding instincts as well as exploring the new world around them. Part of that behaviour is that your baby is noticing his own lips and how they feel.
However, If you find that your baby’s tongue sticks out of their mouth. Also, they seem to be drooling excessively more than is usually associated with spit-up and teething, or they have trouble swallowing, call your doctor.
6 major reasons why babies might be sticking out their tongues.
- They’re playing
Since the 1970s, there has been some controversy about how newborn babies imitate adult behaviour.
Older babies imitate, but several studies have documented that babies as young as weeks old copy adult facial expressions, which includes sticking out their tongues.
- They have a small mouth
There are a variety of syndromes or disorders that can cause a baby to have a mouth, which is smaller than normal.
Micrognathia, or small jaw, is one such condition. Micrognathia can arise due to genetics or part of a condition such as cleft lip or cleft palate, Pierre Robin syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, and many others.
Children with Down syndrome can have many symptoms, including smaller than regular mouth, short stature, unique facial features, and reduced muscle tone.
Babies with DiGeorge syndrome may also have small mouths due to alterations in palate shape.
- Babies have a habit of sticking out their tongues
The tongue-thrusting reflex that babies are born with also contributes to them sticking out their tongue. The reflex helps to make breast or bottle feeding easier.
This reflex disappears typically between the ages of 4 to 6 months. However, some babies continue to stick their tongues out of habit. They might think it feels funny or exciting too.
- They possess a large tongue
You will find babies with macroglossia — a baby has a tongue larger than average — sticking out their tongue more than normal.
Macroglossia can occur in the tongue due to genetics, or an irregular blood vessel or muscle growth. It may also be attributed to disorders like hypothyroidism or tumors.
Additionally, macroglossia in syndromes such as Down syndrome and Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome may occur as a single symptom.
If your baby’s tongue doesn’t seem to fit in their mouth. And, you find other issues like excessive drooling, trouble swallowing, poor muscle tone or trouble eating, call your child’s pediatrician to address your concerns.
- They have poor muscle tone
Some babies have reduced muscle tone. And, the tongue is a muscle which is regulated in the mouth by other muscles. So a decrease in muscle tone can cause the tongue to stick out more than usual.
Several disorders, such as Down syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome, and cerebral palsy, may cause reduced muscle tone.
- They’re hungry or full
Crying isn’t the only way babies can express that they’re hungry. Crying is, in fact, a late sign of hunger.
According to the CDC, early signs of hunger may include clenched hands, placing hands in the mouth, turning to the breast or bottle, smacking, or licking the lips. Sticking out their tongues can be part of hunger signals for infants.
Even babies will stick out their tongues when they’re full. Many signs of fullness may include turning away the mouth, spitting out food or milk, and simply refusing to eat or suck.
Your baby might be a mouth breather
Babies tend to breathe through their nose. If your baby is having nasal congestion or large tonsils or adenoids, instead they may breathe through their mouth. And, this may be the cause of babies sticking out their tongues.
If your baby appears to have trouble breathing, nostril-flaring, wheezing, or other irregular breathing sounds, urgently contact your baby’s doctor. If you have any unresolved questions about your baby’s breathing or their breathing makes much noise, contact your baby’s doctor.
If your child has large adenoids or tonsils which interfere with breathing or feeding, they may need to be removed surgically.
When to see the doctor
If you’re worried about your baby sticking out their tongue or other accompanying symptoms, talking to your baby’s doctor may be helpful.
Several factors can contribute to babies sticking out their tongues. Most times, it is a natural part of development. However, a kid who sticks out their tongue more than normal may have a cause for this. Just be mindful about your babies characteristics as they ages, when you discover un-usual habits, you check on your family doctor ASAP.