Baby Chewing On Tongue—5 Alarming Signs You Need To Watch Out For

baby chewing on tongue

Tongue chewing can worry a parent and make them wonder if there is a reason for concern for the odd habit. A baby’s tongue chewing habit can happen at any age and for different reasons.

Baby chewing on tongue can mean many different things, from a tongue thrust reflex when they are very little to a new fascination with their mouth, and readiness for solid food.

Read on as we discover this phenomenon with our little ones.

Baby chewing tongue habit—more common then you think 

Only in very rare circumstances is there any reason to be genuinely concerned with your baby chewing on their tongue. 

A baby’s tongue chewing may seem very strange to you, but you can rest assured that most babies chew on their tongue at some point. So what does it mean?

Let’s dive into this odd behavior of tongue chewing and dissect it for different stages and ages of children. We’ll uncover what your baby is trying to tell you when you look over and see your baby chewing away on their tongue.

Why is the baby chewing on their tongue?

The baby tongue chewing habit is most likely harmless. A baby chewing on their tongue typically means different things according to their developmental stage and age.

The following are some reasons your little one is chewing on their tongue.

Newborn babies

Newborn reflexes have to do with basic needs. 

For example, the tongue thrust reflex is present until a baby is ready for solid foods. It prevents them from choking. It also helps a baby to latch onto the nipple to feed.

This reflex is engaged when the chin is touched or the cheek or lips. A baby will smack their lips, root around, and thrust their tongue outward to find and latch onto either a bottle nipple or the breast.

One of the primary newborn reflexes is the sucking reflex.

Borne from hunger cues, babies sucking reflex kicks in when they are hungry. So if it looks like your baby is chewing on their inner cheeks or tongue before or after a feeding, it may mean that baby is hungry.

To correct this, you may need to adjust your feeding schedule so that baby spends more time feeding and less time chewing on their tongue.

2 to 3 months of age

At this age, tongue chewing is entirely normal. It may simply occur because the baby has discovered their tongue, and it’s a neat new thing to chew on. 

Babies often discover their hands and feet at this stage and may try to chew on these body parts.

If you notice your child chewing on her hands or tongue, there’s a good chance they’re simply using it as a toy and are fascinated with their new discovery.

Self-soothing technique

That sucking reflex hasn’t entirely gone away. If you know your baby isn’t hungry between a bottle feeding or nursing session but are still chewing on their tongue, it may be to self-soothe.

Much like a pacifier, sucking motion on their tongues or hands can produce a calming effect that can settle them down and help them to go to sleep.

4 to 6 months of age

Older babies are a bit trickier because they develop at different stages. 

Figuring out what your five-month-old is trying to tell you when you see a baby chewing its tongue can be a bit of a mystery.

With determination and observation, you can figure it out and put your mind at ease.

baby chewing on tongue

Ready to start eating solid food

The chewing motion you may have seen your baby engage in may be the beginning stages of preparing to start chewing real food. If your baby does not eat solids yet, they may be trying to tell you that they’re ready by chewing on their tongue.

Always consult with your child’s pediatrician before deciding to start on solids. When most babies try to eat solid foods at around six months of age, you may notice that they also stop tongue chewing.

Teething pain

Around this age, your child may experience discomfort in their mouth due to teething. Excessive drooling, gum inflammation, swollen gums, sticking anything in their mouth they can reach or fit in there, and chewing tongue nonstop are all signs that your little one may be getting a tooth or two.

Babies chew when cutting teeth because the pressure and sensation help dull the discomfort. Try offering teething toys.

A BPA-free teething toy or one that can be put in the refrigerator or freezer is a great option, as the cold temperature can help to numb the pain of a teething baby.

You can also offer teething foods and chew toys to help soothe the baby’s gums.

Don’t worry too much. 

They’ll feel better in no time, and babies learn to prepare for eating solids by chewing on their tongues. It’s all a part of growing up.

When to worry about baby chewing on their tongue

There are a few instances where you need to be concerned about tongue chewing with your infant. A baby chewing on their tongue or other things is usually nothing to worry about.

However, in the following circumstances, be sure to contact your doctor immediately so that intervention can occur.

1. Difficulty breathing

Tongue chewing can sometimes be caused by poor muscle tone or an abnormally large tongue. This can be due to genetics or other issues, but a large tongue or poor muscle control of the tongue can lead to serious problems such as difficulty breathing.

2. A very large tongue

If your child has an oversized tongue, it can cause issues with speech and communication later on, as well as eating. Poor feeding is a detriment to their nourishment and development.

If you notice that your baby has issues with the bottle nipple and can’t stop chewing on their tongue, talk to your doctor.

If you nurse directly to your child, a tongue that is too large can impede feeding time because the tongue reflex that helps the baby latch may not work as it should.

Contact your baby’s pediatrician so that you and your little one can get some answers and get back on track to good health.

3. The tongue’s shape or position is off

Specific orofacial abnormalities can cause your little one’s tongue to be in the wrong shape or position, which means that it can end up constantly in the way, and the baby is chewing on it because it’s in the way.

Talk to your child’s doctor if you notice that the shape of your child’s tongue is different or if it’s in an odd position.

4. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is often present at birth but isn’t always easy to catch. Symptoms include babies chewing on their tongue, cold skin, poor feeding, lethargy, and constipation.

Paying attention and looking out for other signs listed here can help you get the needed help. Conditions like mental retardation, one of the results of this disorder, can be prevented if diagnosis and treatment occur early enough in life.

The thyroid gland is critical to the body as it regulates vital bodily processes such as body temperature and heart rate. It also affects brain development, spinal and nerve development, and digestion.

Living with hypothyroidism is manageable as long as it is caught and treated on time. Many people with serious issues due to hypothyroidism only do so because of a delayed diagnosis and improper or delayed treatment.

5. Genetics

If you or your partner have any thyroid issues within your family, be sure to tell your doctor right away. Congenital hypothyroidism is genetic, meaning that a baby is born with it.

What looks normal to you because your baby has “always done it” may be a red flag you’re not noticing. That’s why having a full and proper family health history is so important.

Do autistic babies bite their tongues?

Tongue biting is one marker for autism, but it is far from the only marker. The tongue plays a huge role in eating solids, and chewing the tongue properly prepares a child for when they start solid food.

Autistic children also typically engage in profuse lip biting, hand waving, and other physical symptoms.

If your child’s only marker is that they chew on their tongue and show no other signs of autism, don’t assume they have it. Babies outgrow many of these odd quirks.

baby chewing on tongue

When should the tongue chewing habit end?

Most babies stop chewing on their tongues by the time they turn one year old. At this point, most babies are eating either purees or table foods, and most parents wean their formula-fed babies from the bottle, so the reflex to suck diminishes and then disappears.

If your child still uses a pacifier, you may notice some tongue chewing when your child is tired or irritable and doesn’t have the pacifier. This is most likely to satisfy a need to soothe themselves.

If your little one is over one year old and is still chewing on their tongue, you may want to make an appointment with the doctor. There is likely nothing to worry about, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Baby sticking tongue out

If your little one isn’t chewing on their tongue but is sticking it out instead, it may simply be that your child has discovered that they have a tongue in the first place. 

A protruding tongue looks silly, but babies must discover everything on their terms, including their bodies.

A child’s life is full of strange discoveries, and their tongue is one of those things. Just wait until they discover other parts of themselves that they become completely enamored with!


Most of the time, there is no need to worry about babies chewing on their tongues. If you want to stop or try to prevent tongue chewing, you can offer them a bottle, breast milk, teething toys, or real food. 

A baby chewing on their tongue will eventually stop; when it does, some other strange behavior will most likely take its place.

It looks odd, but it’s usually not dangerous. As long as you look out for warning signs of other underlying issues and immediately take your baby to the doctor if they have trouble breathing, it should be perfectly safe to live with the odd behavior.

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