Long before babies can talk, they use a variety of gestures to communicate. These gestures include crying, smiling, smacking their lips or scrunching up their noses, according to the article "Reading Your Baby's Cues" on the website PBS Parents. In addition, babies often stick out their tongues. This gesture could mean a variety of things in different situations. Depending on the circumstances, other gestures that accompany this action can also help you figure out what your baby is trying to say.
During Bottle Feeding
When your baby is feeding, it is very important to notice when he thrusts out his tongue. A baby sticks out his tongue and turns his head to let you know that he has had enough to eat, according to an article on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, titled “Breast-Fed Babies Know When To Say When.” Other clues that may indicate that your baby has had enough to eat include pushing against the breast, pulling away, crying or yawning. Overfeeding your baby can lead to obesity, which is why it is crucial to understand your baby's gestures when he is eating.
A baby sticking out his tongue does not always mean that he has had enough to eat. In addition to crying and smacking their lips, babies sometimes stick out their tongue to show you that they are hungry, according to an article on the Government of Nova Scotia's website “Loving Care: Birth to Six Months.” This is different from the action of a baby thrusting out his tongue and violently turning his head after eating from a bottle. When a baby sticks out his tongue to show you that he has had enough to eat, he jerks his head at the same time and his face expression looks like he is not enjoying the feed. However, when a baby sticks out his tongue to show you that he is hungry, he does this in a gentler manner and often smacks his lips at the same time.
Babies often like to play with their parents and imitating their parents’ facial expressions is a major part of those games. It's recommended that you play games with your baby such as sticking out your tongue and watching your baby mimic this action, according to an article on the Women's and Children's Health Network website. Sometimes your baby may initiate the game by sticking out his tongue and waiting for you to do so in response. Playing games is a healthy way to build a connection with your baby and responding to his gestures is another way to build this close relationship.
Switching from Milk to Food
Although it is recommended to introduce solids to a baby's diet around 6 months of age, some babies show that they are not ready for food by sticking out their tongues, says the Better Health Channel. This is a natural instinct that prevents the baby from choking. If you have started giving your baby solids and noticed this reaction, this may be sign that your baby needs more time before he can accept solids.
Generally, there is nothing wrong with a baby sticking out her tongue. However, if you have concerns, it can never hurt to see a doctor. Sticking out the tongue accompanied by drooling and difficulty with eating may sometimes indicate an oral-motor disorder, according to BabyCenter. This means that the baby has difficulty controlling the muscles needed for swallowing. To ensure peace of mind, monitor your baby. If you continue to have doubts, ask a professional to help you read the signs.
- PBS Parents: Reading Your Baby's Cues
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: Breast-Fed Babies Know When to Say When
- Government of Nova Scotia: Loving Care, Birth to 6 Months
- Women's and Children's Health Network: Parenting and Child Health, Living with Babies
- Better Health Channel: Baby Care - Weaning