As a parent, you are always cautious of your baby’s conditions, like crying all the time or changing skin color. You must also have seen your newborn often sticking out tongue and found it adorable. However, at times this act of your newborn must have made you curious to know the reason behind it. Is it normal? And if it is normal, why is your newborn sticking out tongue?
To your relief newborn sticking out tongue is normal. This phenomenon is called the tongue-thrust reflex, part of the newborn’s sucking reflex.
However, a newborn sticking out tongue can indicate a couple of harmful conditions like macroglossia and Down syndrome. But these are pretty rare conditions and have other associated signs as well.
Different theories about newborns sticking out tongue
So what is the logic behind this sticking out the tongue? You already know that sticking out their tongue is a part of babies’ sucking reflex, which is expected at this age. Newborns use their tongues to latch on the nipple, and by sticking it out, they avoid choking.
However, some pediatricians say that sticking out the tongue has more than just a sucking reflex. At different stages of our life, we use other gestures to communicate and explore the world. Newborns may use their tongues for both communication and exploration. We see a strong tendency in newborns to put everything in their mouths. So it is very much possible that newborns use their tongues to explore the world.
Here are some theories associated with newborns sticking out tongues:
If you think that newborns don’t have any concern with their surroundings, you are entirely wrong. They don’t only perceive information from their surroundings but also try to interact in several ways. Several studies published in the Journal of Developmental Science provide strong evidence for it.
So it is pretty much possible that when your baby sticks out their tongue when you are around, they are trying to imitate or play with you.
Merely a habit
As we know, newborns stick their tongues out as part of the sucking reflex. This reflex usually lasts 4 to 6 first months of life and disappears gradually. It is pretty standard, and they learn to keep their tongue inside later in life. However, some babies keep doing this merely as a habit.
The bigger the pipe, the better the flow. Newborns apply the same principle when they use their mouths for breathing purposes. But this mostly happens with nasal congestion as a triggering factor. A large tonsil, an adenoid, or any other mass obstructing the nasal passage causes the tongue to stick out to use the mouth as a breathing passage. However, you also observe other signs of nasal congestion, which include:
- Nasal flaring.
- An unusual breathing noise or a wheeze.
- Deep breaths.
- A fast rate of breathing.
- Interference with feeding.
Suppose you find these signs together with sticking out of the tongue. In that case, you should visit a pediatrician for treatment.
Newborn trying to communicate
You know that crying is a way for newborns to communicate their needs to you. It may be for food or several other things. But crying comes way late in communication for food than some other instincts. Sticking out their tongue is one of the earlier ways newborns try to communicate with you whether they are hungry or full.
Here are some other early signs of hunger as noted by the CDC:
- Clenching of the hands.
- Licking or putting hands or fingers inside the mouth.
- Turing their head towards the bottle or breast.
- Licking the lips with tongue or smacking.
Similarly, sticking out the tongue could mean that the newborn is full. Other signs of your baby being full include:
- Rotating or turning their tongue away from the bottle or breasts.
- Refusing to take nipples inside their mouth.
- Spitting out instead of drinking milk.
See, your newborn is trying to communicate with you even at this early stage only if you know what they are saying.
A strange study has also shown that many newborns stick out their tongues when passing gas. However, this behavior varies from baby to baby. Some just smile and sticks out their tongue while others may cry. It is normal and doesn’t mean that your baby has some digestion disorder.
Not ready for a solid diet
CDC has recommended adding a solid meal to the newborn’s diet beyond the age of 6 months. This addition is gradual and increases with age. This has led to an interesting observation as different babies react differently to it.
A most remarking finding was the babies who didn’t like the texture of solid food and refused to take solid food often stuck out their tongues. As if saying that they aren’t ready for the solid food yet. You might want to skip the idea of solid food for a couple of weeks.
Macroglossia (huge tongue)
A tongue larger than usual is called macroglossia, and since it is larger, it doesn’t confine in the mouth and sticks out. However, is it normal?
It occurs because of genetic variation leading to abnormal muscular or vascular development. Most of the time, it has no association with the dangerous conditions of the newborn. But macroglossia with excessive drooling, poor muscle tone, difficulty feeding, and delayed milestones could mean genetic disorders like Down syndrome or Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome.
Contrary to macroglossia, micrognathia, i.e., the smallmouth, is mainly associated with Down syndrome. Micrognathia is genetic and can be normal without association with a genetic disorder, but the chances are less.
Micrognathia is found in syndromes like Pierre Robin syndrome, DiGeorge syndrome and Beckwith—Wiedemann syndrome. One also finds cleft palate or cleft lip associated with it as well.
Newborn sticking out tongue: When to worry and when not to
Sticking out the tongue in newborns is a pretty normal phenomenon. However, if you find that your newborn is drooling too much or having difficulty swallowing, or making weird noises when breathing, you should consult a pediatrician. There are some genetic conditions associated with it, but your doctor is the best person to tell you that.