Once your baby has learned how to grasp on to an object, you can be sure that object will end up in their mouth. It doesn't matter what texture, smell, or taste the object may have, if it ends up in their hands it will inevitably end up in their mouth. While parents may fret over some of the cleanliness issues this poses, rest assure that this is a natural behavior. Then why it happens? Know why here.
Why Do Babies Put Everything in Their Mouths?
There are a few theories to this question.
One, is simply that babies have not perfected their fine motor skills. While they maybe handle to briefly hold onto things or move objects closer to them, they tend to resort to using their tongues to explore their surroundings.
This doesn't explain why they would put potentially harmful items in their mouths. Houseplants, pet toys and dirt on the floor all can carry harmful bacteria and toxins that can be poisonous or infections to a baby. Babies do not seem to be bothered by a repulsive smell or bitter taste as most adults or older children would be.
Another explanation is that babies have not yet developed their taste buds fully. This, however, has been proven not to be true. Within a few weeks after birth, a baby has a full sense of taste and some babies may even have a greater sense of taste than most adults. This full development of their taste sense does not seem to have an impact on what they will or will not but in their mouths still.
If motor skills and their sense of taste does not seem to have an effect on what goes into your baby's mouth, then what could explain their desire to put whatever is closest to them into their mouth?
Why do babies put everything in their mouths could be explained by the Hygiene Hypothesis. This hypothesis was first introduced in 1989 that suggests that regular exposure to infectious agents while in infancy can help build the immune system. Developing the immune system up in this way can later help the immune system fight against autoimmune diseases later in life. What makes the hygiene hypothesis more credible than other explanations?
To begin, the immune system of a baby is turbocharged. Most babies will have a much higher white blood cell count than adults. They have a much higher number of leukocytes and lymphocytes the B cells and natural killer cells, which means they are better equipped to fight off new infections.
A baby's exposure to so many new things allows their immune system to better fight against future infections. Since their immune system is better able to respond to so many new exposures, it will be able to prevent and fight off diseases in the future.
Then why do things have to go straight to the mouth?
The immune system develops by its exposure to things that have come through the stomach. The stomach acid renders things harmless and partially digests items that the immune system will grab onto. This is how the immune system gathers information about substances that can be harmful and safe. It stores this information to know how to respond to similar substances in the future.
In order for a baby to increase their immune system's response to harmful and not so harmful substance, they need to put things in their mouth. So why do babies put everything in their mouths? It is a way for them to strengthen their immune system.
Keep in mind that many common everyday items we have around today were not around years ago. Pesticides and medication were never meant for babies to put in their mouths. However, being exposed to the extra germs can even help keep your baby healthier later in life and protect them against asthma or eczema.
You may be tempted to keep everything out of your babies mouth if it isn't clean but this may not help them develop their immune system properly. If the item does pose a choking hazard and is harmless then you might want to allow your little one to chew it for a little. Babies who are exposed to some germs and dirt tend to be healthier later in life.
However, Pay Attention to Safety Precaution During the Mouthing Phase
Don't discourage them
While your baby is in the mouthing phases, you want to try to refrain from scolding them when they do put things in their mouths. Remember they do this out of curiosity, and scolding them for being curious can cause them to lose interest in learning about new things. To help encourage them, be sure to keep safe items near your baby.
Remove dangerous items
If it's shiny, dangles, or is a cord your child will be instantly attracted to it, be sure all dangerous items are away and out of reach of your baby. This includes small items and items that are sharp or pointy.
The meaning of NO
Why do babies put everything in their mouths even when you say NO? Because they simply don’t understand that. You need to ensure you tell your baby NO in a way that they will understand that those objects are not meant for little hands.
Babies will also often put things in their mouths when they are teething. Having a few teethers for her to chew on can provide your baby with relief from the aching gums and ensure they are chewing on something safe.