Babies are a true marvel, but they sometimes tend to do things that give us a scare, especially when we don’t know if what they’re doing is normal, like a baby sticking his tongue out.
There’s no need to worry though, it’s usually perfectly normal if you have a baby sticking his tongue out.
A baby’s best way to interact with the environment when he’s young is by using his mouth and tongue to test the new things he finds.
This is why you often see babies put things in their mouth; it’s their method of introducing themselves to its shape, temperature, and taste.
It could also be because you’ve gotten him upset, and now he’s sticking his tongue out at you!
Though one of the main reasons is also the baby’s natural sucking reflex, also known as the tongue-thrust reflex, which is part of their innate instinct for feeding.
Your baby might be doing this just to practice for his feeding sessions, so he can get into a more comfortable position where he is less likely to choke on the breast milk or formula.
That said, while this is one of the main reasons, it’s not the only one. There are plenty of others too.
While most are harmless, there are a few that could be cause for alarm.
Let’s take a look at what they are.
13 Reasons For Baby Sticking Tongue Out
1. It’s become a habit
As I mentioned at the start, the tongue-thrust reflex is often the main culprit for kids sticking their tongues out, even when not feeding.
Normally it goes away about halfway through your child’s first year of life, when he’s around 5-6 months of age, though it can continue after this.
Usually, it’s nothing to worry about because the likeliest reason is that he’s simply gotten used to doing it and it’s grown into a habit.
Alternatively, maybe he finds it really entertaining.
2. The baby finds it amusing
For some reason, the act of sticking your tongue out or even blowing a raspberry is very entertaining to children.
Maybe they see it as something that gets a reaction from their parents or siblings and gets them attention. If it shows the desired results, they just keep doing it.
If this is the only reason, there’s no real problem in entertaining it.
This is one of the potentially concerning reasons.
Macroglossia is a condition where a person possesses a fairly large tongue compared to the standard, to the point where the size interferes with a few basic functions.
While it can be temporary if the cause is a slight developmental delay of muscles and blood vessels, it can also be a genetic thing that is a bit more permanent.
It can also be an early sign and symptom of Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome or Down syndrome, two things that are a real cause for concern.
If you notice your baby sticking out his tongue, try staying on the lookout for any difficulties with his breathing, feeding, or swallowing, as well as the aftereffects of problems like poor muscle tone or excessive drooling.
Should any of these start occurring, make sure to set up an appointment with your pediatrician for a check-up just in case.
After all, there’s no need to jump to conclusions as the cause could be something else entirely.
4. Low muscle tone
A number of people don’t know this, but the tongue is a muscle just like any other.
When someone has rather low muscle tone the tongue tends to loll out of the mouth.
This is especially true for newborn babies who haven’t had theirs develop properly yet.
There are more concerning problems linked to poor muscle tone too, however, like cerebral palsy, DiGeorge syndrome, and the previously mentioned Down syndrome.
Once again, if you have a feeling it could be a more serious condition, make sure to reach out to your pediatrician or get some properly qualified medical advice on the matter.
5. The baby is gassy
You read that right! Excess gas could also be the reason why your baby is sticking his tongue out.
The tongue protrusion in this case is rather temporary and simply one of the many facial expressions children can make when trying to squeeze a burp or fart out.
It’s a form of natural reflex and, honestly, it’s hilarious to see your little boy or little girl trying their hardest to get a tiny toot out!
6. The baby isn’t ready to transition to solid foods
As mentioned earlier, the mouth is the child’s gateway to the world when he’s only a few months old baby.
One of the more common reasons as to why he might be sticking his tongue out could be in protest or disgust at the taste of solid foods.
While the CDC recommends that a child’s first time being introduced to solid foods should be at around 6 months of age, this isn’t always the case.
Some children tend to transition later than others because they may not like the smell, taste, or texture of solids in comparison to the breast milk or formula they’ve gotten so used to.
It could also be that his oral cavity hasn’t properly developed for solids yet, and might be causing him a few issues with gagging.
If you see your kiddo sticking his tongue out at the prospect of some solids, try again in a week or two and give him a rest from it in the meantime. He’ll come around to it eventually.
If it continues happening for everything, not just solids, do consider talking to a healthcare professional.
7. Abnormal growth in the mouth
Tongue protrusion in children can also happen in case of tonsil or glandular swelling, most notably the adenoids on the roof of the mouth.
They shrink the space inside your child’s oral cavity and essentially force the tongue to stick out.
In some very rare cases, it can also be a form of oral cancer that, while unlikely, needs to be mentioned just in case.
Most of the swelling, in this case, is caused by temporary infections or the forming of cysts on the aforementioned areas.
It should pass in a matter of a week or two tops.
That said, should the problem persist for a while, or you’re simply concerned because both the harmless and harmful reasons for the baby sticking tongue out have similar symptoms, don’t hesitate to call a doctor to look your child over and find out what’s wrong.
The telltale signs that something more serious could be at play are:
• Eating less
• Refusal to eat
• Picky eater
• Excess drooling
• An abnormal oral growth
8. Baby is breathing through the mouth
While mouth breathing is normally harmless, it can be a sign of an underlying problem.
While most children breathe through their noses, certain factors like allergies or a stuffy nose can clog the nasal pathways, causing your child to breathe through his mouth instead.
As he’s very inexperienced in the matter, his tongue is more likely to fall out of his mouth and hang around for a while.
The other potential reasons are related to swelling, as they involve the adenoids on the roof of the baby’s oral cavity and potentially large tonsils that get in the way and block the pathways off.
Whatever the case, if the problem persists make sure to call your doctor so you can get a better grasp on the situation and potentially remedy the issue before it gets out of hand.
This is especially true for large or swollen glands, as then you’re likely going to have to have them removed through corrective surgery.
9. Your baby has a small mouth
A large tongue isn’t the only potential concern for mouth issues, it tends to come hand in hand with a small mouth too, though both can be separate problems.
In this case, the matter is mostly genetic and there’s little that can be done about it outside of surgery, but it can also be an accompanying symptom alongside a cleft chin or a cleft lip.
In other cases, however, it’s a symptom of a larger issue.
A few that come to mind are Down syndrome, Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome, or even DiGeorge or Pierre Robin syndromes.
It’s a whole list, really, but these are the most prominent culprits of micrognathia (small lower jaw).
It’s worth paying attention to, especially considering how these can impact your child’s health and overall growth by delaying developmental milestones or leaving their heart more prone to defects and disease in the future.
10. Imitating adult gestures
If you have a baby sticking his tongue out, it could also be a sign that he’s simply trying to imitate behavior like speaking but failing to get the expected result.
Children are mental sponges, they absorb a lot of information about their surroundings and their little brain works overtime to make sense of everything at once.
This is especially true for their exploratory age, which usually hits around between months 7-9, and lasts a while.
Your little one is going to be surrounded by you, your partner, and many of your friends talking around him and producing all of these odd and curious sounds – words.
This is something he’ll want to imitate, though due to not knowing how, it’ll end up coming out as a lot of rasping and his tongue hanging out.
11. A sign of teething
While this is not one of the main signs that your child’s teeth are starting to come in, the irritation your child is going to feel on his gums when the process starts could lead to your baby sticking his tongue out.
It’s usually followed by general fussiness, excessive drooling, and red gums, so be on the lookout and don’t panic if you spot them, it’s all part of the natural developmental process after all.
12. It could be a potential sign of autism
While this is not the main sign that your baby may be on the autistic spectrum, it can be an accompanying symptom alongside several other easy to spot ones like:
• Avoiding eye contact
• Delays in speech development
• No response to the child’s name when called out
• General lack of interest or emotion
While it is a long shot, if you’re concerned that this might be the case with your child, schedule an appointment with your doctor and voice your concerns if you continue seeing this type of behavior when your child grows older.
13. It’s a way of expressing a desire to eat (or lack thereof)
Finally, one of the main reasons you might see your baby sticking his tongue out is to show whether he’s hungry or not.
Babies don’t possess the required vocabulary to express their wants and needs, so they’ll resort to either hand gestures or making different faces and actions with their mouth.
On top of things like smacking his lips or looking directly at his source of food, your baby might also be prone to keeping his tongue out as a way to tell you that he’s hungry.
It’s the same the other way around, at least as far as the tongue is concerned.
When a baby is full, he’ll often start looking away from the bottle or breast, getting cranky at the idea of more food, or displaying his tongue as a sign of fullness.
There might be even a little bit of acid reflux if you overfeed your baby, regardless of whether you’re breastfeeding or formula-feeding.
Do note that every baby might show these signs differently, and you should pay close attention to the way your baby acts when hungry or full.
It’ll make your life a whole lot easier because you’ll be more likely to tell what he wants in the current moment.
There are plenty of reasons you might see your baby sticking his tongue out, some harmless and entertaining, some a lot less so.
Whatever the case may be, if you feel any level of concern or notice your baby struggling, it’s best to call your pediatrician and share your worries.
It’s helpful to keep track of when this behavior happens, how frequently it occurs, and any other unusual behavior when you notice your baby sticking his tongue out.
You can even record a video on your phone and show it to your doctor.
Some of the more concerning symptoms to look out for are any potential swelling inside the oral cavity, excessive drooling, micrognathia, macroglossia, poor muscle tone, and any difficulty breathing or eating.
I trust that you’ll be able to spot all of these and react accordingly.
Until next time, mamma!
• Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, July 23.) “When, What, and How to Introduce Solid Foods”. CDC website.
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