Sometimes, babies do weird things. From sleeping with their eyes half-open to strange colored-poop, babies often cause us to worry when in fact, their strangeness is entirely normal. Yet, does this also apply to when a baby is chewing when there’s nothing in their mouth?
Absolutely. It is completely normal for your baby to be chewing when there’s nothing in their mouth. There are various (natural) reasons why babies make chewing motions with their mouths despite not actually eating.
Babies tend to move different parts of their bodies, including their mouths, to discover the world around them and their own bodies. Whether they’re signaling they’re hungry or self-soothing, let’s uncover the different reasons why your baby may be chewing with nothing in their mouth.
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Zero to Three Months
Little behaviors like repeated chewing are a normal process in your infant’s growth. When your baby is either a newborn or three months old, there are a few probable reasons why they’re chewing with nothing in their mouths. Likely reasons include:
- Instinctive reflex: With a natural intuition to attach their mouth to whatever is near them, it’s often they will use chewing motions instinctually. This can also be called the rooting reflex, where when a baby’s mouth is touched they’ll reach out and open their mouth to search for food.
- Silent reflux: Newborns can have what’s called silent reflux. This occurs when the content of their stomach comes back up into their esophagus but they don’t actually vomit. Instead, they simply taste and chew whatever came up and swallow it back down (nasty, we know). After twelve months and a growing ability to sit up, silent reflux will easily dissipate.
- Signaling they’re hungry: Chewing or opening their mouths can be an obvious cue that your baby is hungry. If your baby often sticks out their tongue or makes a chewing motion, your feeding schedule may need some regulating.
Four to Six Months
At around six months, babies will start growing their tiny teeth in. As the little teeth begin to grow out of their gums, they will feel discomfort and attempt to self-soothe by chewing. At this time, it’s crucial to keep any harmful or sharp objects hidden, as they will grab whatever is near them to chew on.
On the flip side, they can just be displaying chewing motions even if there’s nothing in their mouth. Babies will often use their tongues or mouths to explore what’s around them. Of course, this includes newly grown teeth. If you’re worried about your baby biting their tongue, try introducing teething toys or pacifiers.
Teething toys can be refrigerated in order for their cold touch to soothe your baby’s sore gums. These toys can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors in order to draw their attention and enjoy playing with them while relieving their discomfort. However, always consult a professional before giving your child any teething pain relievers to ensure they’re perfectly safe.
Ultimately, your baby is most likely just a curious little explorer ready to discover their own body. Not only are babies eager to learn about their environment and surroundings, but they also continually look at and touch their bodies as it’s still quite a mystery to them.
If your baby is chewing with nothing in their mouth, they probably are just fascinated by the feeling of the inside of their mouth. By using their tongue and moving their jaws, they learn more about how their body works.
When Chewing Becomes an Issue
While this is an entirely normal and healthy stage, if your baby does continue to chew constantly and past its teething phase, you may want to consult your baby’s pediatrician. Here are some warning signs to watch for:
- If chewing their tongue is restricting them from actually eating
- Chewing nothing is normal, but if they continue to chew even after they turn one year old, it warrants a doctor’s visit
- If your baby is chewing its own tongue to the point it begins to bleed or looks injured
- Baby shows signs of troubled breathing
- Signs of hypothyroidism include a protruding tongue, cold skin, constipation, poor feeding, and low activity. If your baby is displaying these symptoms, check with their doctor about the possibility of hypothyroidism
- An abnormal tongue shape or movement of the mouth can be an issue to discuss with their doctor
Although these behaviors and symptoms are not as common, they are all treatable and have no cause for distress. With the help of their pediatrician, you can learn more about what to do next to keep your child happy and healthy.
Your baby chewing with nothing in their mouth is completely normal. As a normal stage of their growth, babies will chew without food for multiple regular reasons. If your newborn is under three months, they most likely are chewing due to an instinctive reflex to chew repeatedly, silent reflux, or displaying a cue that they’re hungry and ready to eat.
Meanwhile, babies four months and over will probably be chewing because they’re teething. New teeth coming out of their delicate gums can be painful. As a result, they will either chew nothing or whatever they can possibly find around them. Teething toys are perfect for those needing some form of comfort and distraction from growing pains.
The final and most common reason babies are chewing with nothing in their mouth is simply because they want to learn more about their own bodies. Their tongue allows them to feel all around their mouth and their jaw will help them move their mouth and make chewing motions. This action can fascinate them to no end and they’ll playfully repeat it.
Of course, there are some less likely factors to consider when your baby is chewing with nothing in their mouth. Be sure to check if they are injuring their own tongue or bleeding in their mouth. If this chewing coincides with other strange symptoms, always check with your pediatrician. However, this chewing is for the most part an entirely normal part of their growth.