Your concern is understandable! As a parent, we worry about everything and second guess our every action. Sometimes we can go to the extreme with our concerns and worries when there is really no need. Easier said than done though.
I can still hear the thoughts that ran through my mind. Had she had enough milk? Was the bath water too warm? What cream should I use for the nappy rash? Why does she have nappy rash? Do I need to take her to the doctor? Will the doctor think I am crazy? I could go on and on about all of the worries I had when my children were babies.
One strange thing that I did notice was the chewing. I was not sure what was happening and if I should be worried or not. Something I have learnt over time as a parent is to trust your instincts. ‘A mother knows best’, is often the saying that we hear. Have you ever had a gut instinct about something and it turned out to be right? It happens more than you can imagine.
When the chewing started, I was checking to see if teeth were about to pop, if my baby’s gums were red, or if she was hungry for more food. My instinct told me that it was ok, and in my situation, I was right.
If you have noticed your baby chewing on their tongue, there is not always a great cause for concern, although every situation may be unique. Depending on their age, it could be that they are ready to start exploring with some basic solid foods, or perhaps you might have notice that their gums are red and swollen. They might be teething!
Here are some of the main reasons for tongue-chewing in babies:
- Ready for solid foods
- Relieve pain
- Involuntary action and reflexes.
Welcome to the world of teething!
This is a hot topic of conversation for many parents and many a frazzled mother has attended a play group or mothers’ group and shared their stress and concerns with others. You are definitely not alone!
When your little one is clearly in pain, won’t settle down and is crying, it can be very upsetting. You want nothing more than to help your child but you don’t know how. I am sure that all of the parents out there have felt quite helpless at one point or another. There is no shame in that, and each day is a new day to ask for advice, learn and grow.
When the teething stage hits, you might decide to rush out and buy a variety of teething rings and soothing gels in an attempt to help relieve the pain in some way. The amount of teething rings I had sitting in my freezer at the ready was unbelievable. However, I did use them a lot and they definitely helped out during the teething stage.
You might also consider a chew toy. That might sound weird as chew toys sound like something you would purchase for your pet. There are a variety of chew toys for babies that will help them when they are teething. The pressure on the gums will relieve some of the pain they are experiencing. They may also come in a range of colours and double up as a fine motor activity for their developing fingers.
Is your little bundle of joy ready for some solid food?
Time goes fast doesn’t it! Sometimes we are not ready for it and it sneaks up on us. You might be hesitant and unsure if your baby is ready to progress to the next stage and have a go with some solid foods.
I found it useful to start off with some chewable rusks. They may taste quite bland but will help your baby develop the chewing motion which is essential for jaw development. Just remember that during this important milestone, what you provide in terms of solid foods could help your child to grow healthy and strong with a preference for healthier options later in life.
I am a firm believer that making your own baby food, where possible, is the best course of action. It is ok to have some baby food on hand that has been purchased from a store, but I would only use these when I was desperate or out and about, having no access to my home cooked purees.
Some of the great vegetable options to puree are:
Make sure you include a variety of vegetables in the meals you are creating so that your baby experiences different tastes and textures. A good variety will also ensure that they are receiving all the necessary vitamins and minerals they require for their growth and development.
It is a fabulous idea to store the puree in ice-cube trays in your freezer. Ice-cube trays are the perfect size for appropriate portions. If you have taken the time to make some great food, this is also the way to stop your hard work from going to waste. There is nothing worse than wasting your time when you are a busy parent with a million things to do. Using the trays in this way will always ensure you have a quick and healthy meal ready to go.
Make sure you get yourself a really good blender as it is going to be running hot!
It would be beneficial to schedule a time each week to do your meal prep. Doing all of your chopping, cooking and blending in one session is a fabulous time-saver trick. If you are keeping a schedule of sleep and awake times for your baby, then you will start to see a pattern which will allow you to slot in an appropriate amount of time for your food prep. You will not know yourself! With a schedule, you will be so organised and much calmer so it’s a win-win situation for you and bub.
In the first year of life, your babies taste buds are developing. The types of foods you provide will start to set up a preference with their taste buds. Try and avoid sugary foods and check the baby food labels carefully to determine that there is a low sugar content. If they are exposed to healthy tasting foods early on, when they are adults it is quite likely that their taste buds will come alive and they will choose healthy foods over poor food choices.
Watch and enjoy as your little one starts exploring!
Exploring parts of the body helps your child to grow and develop their senses. Our bodies are designed to move and explore. One minute your baby is playing with a rattle, the next minute their toe is in their mouth. This is a natural stage of development and it is wonderful that your baby is inquisitive.
If your little one is having some tummy time, make sure small items are out of reach. They will want to put everything and anything in their mouths as they explore.
Make sure they have plenty of room to move and wriggle. Movement is beneficial for bone and muscle development, as well as hand and eye coordination. Although it can be hard to resist cuddling and carrying them around all the time because they are so adorable, provide plenty of time for them to stretch out and explore.
All of the development that occurs when exploring will really set them up to be successful little learners as they grow. Hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills are crucial for reading and writing when they are ready to enter school.
The importance of being soothed
Many young babies and children find comfort and safety when they soothe themselves. Soothing can take many forms such as rocking and cuddling. Chewing on things can also provide a soothing feeling.
As adults, we can appreciate the need for soothing as we all lead busy and hectic lives. Adults have a variety of ways to self soothe however, babies are only just learning about the world around them and moving their tongue around the inside of their mouth in a chewing type motion is one that they can easily access.
There are a number of ways you can help to soothe your baby. These may include:
- Putting on some relaxing music in the background
- Baby massage and moisture cream
- Running a warm bath
- Wrapping or swaddling
- Sitting in a rocking chair to feed
- Use a body carrier as you walk around
- Using a pacifier.
Find a method, or methods, that suit your baby. Soothing means feeling relaxed, safe and secure. It can be achieved and may distract your baby from habits such as chewing on their tongue.
Does the chewing actually resemble a sucking motion?
Many times, chewing and sucking can be misinterpreted. Your baby will move their lips and make a sucking motion when they are hungry. This could look like chewing as they stick their tongue in and out of their mouths.
How cute is it when they purse their little lips together and stick their tongue out? I adore moments like those and it is always good to have a camera handy for those memorable occasions!
So the next time you notice your baby chewing their tongue, really think about what you are seeing. If your concerns go deeper and you can see redness on the tongue or anything else that does not seem right, then always take the time to investigate further with a medical professional.
It could be a reflex involuntary action!
Reflexes can be recurring movements or a reaction to other stimulus. What happens when you stroke the side of your babies’ mouth? Does their mouth suddenly open? Do they turn their head towards your fingers?
This is just one example of the multitude of natural reflexes that every baby has. When you notice these types of reflexes, you can rest assured that everything is fine. It demonstrates that your babies’ brain is functioning as it should.
Babies also have a sucking reflex which allows them to drink and eat. This could look like chewing of the tongue. The mouth is developing and your little one might just be experiencing a chewing motion that is a reflex and nothing to worry about.
Many involuntary movements that you are noticing such as arms appearing to be jerking back and forth, legs jerking, and movements such as shaking and quivering, are natural for a baby and they will most likely grow out of these involuntary movements in time. Once bones start to strengthen and muscles start to develop, your baby will have greater control over their movements, including their mouth and tongue.
So will my baby be ok?
When it comes to our beautiful babies, it is important to notice when something just does not seem right. You would not be a parent if you were not worried and questioning what you see. It is a natural part of the very important job we have in raising our little humans to be the best they can be.
Teething, the need to feel soothed, or experiencing discomfort and pain, is a natural part of life that we have all been through. Baby chewing their tongue, or fingers and feet for that matter, is a normal process in growth and development.
If you feel that you still have concerns, you should investigate further for your own piece of mind. As each day arrives and the weeks pass, you should start to feel more confident in your decisions and ability to recognize normal behaviours in the unique little individual you have created.
The most important thing is to remember to take some time to relax and enjoy your baby’s milestones. The growth process happens in the blink of an eye. Time is very precious, so enjoy spending time with your little one and know that you are doing a great job.