Why Do Babies Drool?

Getting those slobbery wet kisses from your drooling baby is one of the joys of motherhood, right? While you may not enjoy such moisture from others, it seems to be just fine when it comes from your own baby. Drooling is a normal part of infancy and toddlerhood but do you know why babies drool? There are several reasons babies drool and we’re taking a look at them today.

First, a little biology lesson:  Saliva is an essential element that moistens our mouths and plays a crucial role in digestion. As food gets wet, it becomes softer and more congealed so it is easier to chew and swallow. Saliva contains enzymes that start to break down food, especially starches, making it easier to digest when it reaches the stomach and intestines. Saliva is also a natural antacid that neutralizes stomach acids. Plus, saliva washes away food debris in our mouths and helps prevent tooth decay.

Why Do Babies Drool?It is common for parents to see an increase in drool around three months of age, perhaps as evidenced by the pool of saliva in front of your baby’s play space and his soaking wet shirt. This is because, while babies are born with hundreds of salivary glands, the most active ones responsible for helping babies eat and chew aren’t mature until around this time. The delayed maturation of salivary glands is one of the reasons why babies cannot handle solids in their first few months of life. Once your baby begins drooling, it’s a good sign that starting solids is right around the corner.

So now we know why we have saliva but why do babies drool rather than swallow like the rest of us. First of all, having more saliva in the mouth is new to babies at first and they aren’t aware of their sensory duty to swallow it. Gravity then causes it to drip from the mouth. Some babies who have week neck, core, lip and jaw muscles may have gaping mouths that can cause excessive drooling.

One of the most obvious culprits of drooling is teething. Even before teeth cut through the gums, extra saliva can act as an analgesic to reduce the pain caused by the teething process. Babies drool more when they are teething because of this abundance of saliva.

Babies may also drool when they put something in their mouths, even if it is not food. Oral exploration is how babies make new discoveries about the world. They use their tongues and lips to experience texture and process information about items. This oral habit may cause drooling…and wet toys!

It’s important to note that sudden drooling can be a sign of choking either from food or a foreign object. If you notice lots of drool and slowed breathing or coughing, look for what may be lodged in your baby’s throat or mouth. Call 911 and begin emergency procedures if your baby is indeed choking.

Drooling may be the result of certain foods or medications as well. Sometimes babies and toddlers drool when they are concentrating hard on fine motor skills and then eventually on tasks like feeding or dressing themselves. Usually most drooling subsides by two years of age when most of a toddler’s baby teeth are in.

Sources: Healthy Children, North Shore Pediatric Therapy, and The Washington Post