Is My Baby Sticking His Tongue Out Normal?
Babies come into this world with certain reflexes and instincts that help them survive. As they grow and develop, they start figuring out how their bodies and the world works.
You may notice that your baby sticks her tongue out. Maybe she does it a lot. So, you start searching online for “baby sticking tongue out” because you’re worried something is wrong. Is this normal behavior, or should you be concerned?
Baby Sticking Tongue Out A Lot
Babies are learning, growing and trying to get used to their bodies. As part of the growing and learning process, they use their mouths in many different ways. Naturally, this means that they’re using their tongues in different ways, too.
You may notice that your little one is sticking her tongue out a lot. As a concerned parent, you may be wondering whether this is normal behavior.
Here’s the good news: It’s perfectly normal for infants to stick their tongues out. Unless your little one is showing other concerning symptoms or behaviors, there’s nothing to worry about.
Babies stick their tongues out for a number of reasons, and sometimes, just for fun.
Related: FREE Baby Milestone Cards
Baby Sticking Tongue Out 2 Months/6 Months/9 Months – Causes
What causes babies to stick their tongues out? That depends on a number of things, including the baby’s age.
Babies under six months may stick their tongues out because of instinct. Older babies may do it intentionally.
Babies 2-6 Months
Babies under six months of age usually stick their tongues out because of:
- Hunger: It’s not uncommon for infants to stick out their tongues when they’re hungry. They may also turn their heads and open their mouths to let you know it’s time to eat.
- Tongue Thrust Reflex: A reflex that causes babies to automatically extend their tongues when something touches their lips.
- Congenital Conditions: Some babies are born with larger-than-normal tongues, which may cause them to stick their tongues out. This is rarely the reason why babies stick their tongues out. Hunger and reflexes are more likely to be the cause.
At this age, babies are likely sticking their tongues out because of instinct. It’s a perfectly normal and natural behavior.
Babies 6-9+ Months
Babies over the age of six months may stick out their tongues on purpose. They may be trying to imitate their parents, communicate or try to get attention. The most common causes include:
- Hunger: Some older babies continue to stick their tongues out when they’re hungry. They’ve learned that this behavior gets them food, so they continue doing it when they’re hungry.
- Imitation: Around 8-9 months of age, babies start imitating adults. They may start sticking out their tongues to imitate their parents, a sibling or another family member.
- Attention: Babies are attention-seekers. They may stick their tongues out just to see if they can get a reaction out of you. If mom or brother laughs at this behavior, they may do it more often to get attention and cause a reaction.
At this stage, it’s still normal for babies to stick their tongues out. This time, they’re doing it for fun and on purpose rather than instinct.
Babies may also stick their tongues out as a way to play with you.
Just like adults, babies can also develop acid reflux, and this can cause them to stick their tongues out.
Acid reflux occurs when the contents of the stomach move back up into the esophagus. At the bottom of the esophagus is a little ring of muscle, and when it doesn’t close completely, it can cause digestive juices and the contents of the stomach to move back up into the esophagus.
If your baby is sticking her tongue out, this doesn’t necessarily mean that she has acid reflux. This condition is accompanied by other symptoms, including:
- Spitting up
- Difficulty eating
- Arching the body
- Hiccups or wet burps
- Choking or gagging
- Trouble sleeping
Infants are more susceptible to acid reflux because their lower esophageal sphincter is underdeveloped. More than half of all infants are believed to experience acid reflux at some point.
Here’s the good news: The condition usually peaks and goes away on its own around 12-18 months of age.
Rarely do symptoms persist after two years of age, but if they do, this may be a sign of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.
If you suspect that your infant has GERD, see your pediatrician. Your doctor can help determine whether GERD is the problem and suggest lifestyle changes to help ease symptoms.
Hunger, Fullness and Dislike of Food
It’s not uncommon for babies to stick their tongues out after eating. In this case, your little one may be trying to communicate something to you, such as:
I’m Still Hungry
Sometimes, babies are still hungry after a feeding. If you’re breastfeeding, this may be a sign that you’re not producing enough milk.
If hunger is the cause, babies may also exhibit other behaviors, like reaching for food, crying, using hand motions or opening their mouths.
When babies are full, they may stick their tongues out to push food out of their mouths. They may turn their heads away or refuse to open their mouths for more.
I Don’t Like the Taste of This
Babies may stick out their tongues when they don’t like a new food. It’s common for them to do this when they’re transitioning to solid foods or they just don’t like the taste of a new baby food.
What Is Tongue Thrust Reflex in Babies?
Babies rely on certain reflexes to help them survive, and tongue thrust reflex is one of them. Reflexes are automatic reactions triggered by certain stimuli.
A baby’s tongue thrust reflex has a few important purposes:
- It helps prevent choking
- It helps them latch onto a nipple
Most babies are born with this important reflex, although doctors aren’t sure when it develops in the womb.
Newborns don’t have the muscle power to swallow anything other than liquid food, so this reflex is essential to their survival.
The tongue thrust reflex shouldn’t be confused with the sucking reflex, which helps babies feed on formula or breast milk.
Baby Sticking Tongue Out Teething
Older babies may stick their tongue out when they’re teething. They may chew on their tongues, too.
Other signs of teething include:
- Chewing on their hands or objects
- Fussy and cranky for no other apparent reason
- Gag reflex
- Cheek rubbing
- Refusing to eat
- Ear pulling
Babies can start teething as young as four months, but some don’t get their first tooth until after their first birthday. If you think that your baby is teething, read this article about the best natural remedies for baby teething pain.
At What Age Does Tongue Thrust Disappear?
As babies grow and develop, they no longer need their tongue thrust reflex to survive. Eventually, it goes away on its own.
Typically, this reflex starts to disappear at 4-6 months of age and usually coincides with the transition to solid foods.
Losing this reflex makes it easier for babies to start eating purees and soft baby foods.
If the tongue thrust reflex doesn’t disappear and continues into childhood, it can cause issues with teeth and speech development.
How Do You Know If The Tongue-thrust Reflex Is Gone?
The simplest way to determine whether your baby’s tongue thrust reflex is gone is to test it out. The easiest way to do that is with a spoon.
Offer your baby a spoon when trying to feed. If she thrusts her tongue forward to reject the spoon, then you know her reflex is still there. If she opens up her mouth and accepts the spoon, then this is a good indication that this reflex is waning or already gone.
Baby Sticking Tongue Out – When To See A Doctor?
If your baby is sticking out her tongue – even if she’s doing it a lot – there’s usually no cause for concern. It’s a normal and natural behavior for babies.
That being said, if you’re concerned about this behavior, reach out to your doctor. It’s better to trust your gut and find that nothing’s wrong than to ignore it and find out that there’s a problem later on.
If your baby is constantly sticking her tongue out for no apparent reason and displaying other behavioral issues, then it may be time to talk to a pediatrician.
If your baby is consistently sticking out her tongue after feeding, this may be a sign that she’s not eating enough or having trouble absorbing her food. A doctor can help determine the cause and help you resolve the problem.
See a doctor if your baby is:
- Sticking her tongue out and is having trouble feeding or swallowing.
- Showing signs of physical discomfort.
- Exhibiting behavioral changes for no apparent reason.
If your baby is showing any behavioral changes after an illness, injury, or fever, go to the emergency room.
Babies stick their tongues out for a variety of reasons. In most cases, it’s completely normal behavior and nothing to worry about. Your little one may be hungry, it could be tongue thrust reflex, or maybe it’s just her way of trying to imitate your behavior.
If you’re concerned about your baby’s behavior, don’t hesitate to talk to a pediatrician.