Drooling In Babies: Why Does It Happen And How To Deal With It?

Drooling In Babies

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Drooling is quite common during infancy, but some babies drool more than the others, forcing the parents to carry several extra towels or bibs to wipe the mouth dry.

This MomJunction post has all the information you need about drooling in babies and ways to deal with it.

What Is Drooling In Babies?

Drooling is the excess production of saliva in the mouth, so much so that it dribbles out of the mouth. The medical term for hypersalivation is sialorrhea (1). Drooling usually begins at the age of two months when the baby’s salivary glands become functionally active (2).

Babies lack precision control of their neck muscles and thus may not swallow the saliva produced continuously in their mouth. Young infants also do not have teeth to hold back the saliva. Due to these reasons, there is nowhere else for the saliva to go than outside the mouth.

It is common for babies to drool or even blow bubbles. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, drooling helps in the following ways (3):

  • Keeps the baby’s mouth moist.
  • Washes away food residue.
  • Softens foods when the baby starts eating solids, thus making it easier to swallow.
  • Protects the baby’s gums. Once the baby has teeth, the compounds in saliva prevent tooth decay.
  • Saliva works as a natural antacid that helps prevent hyperacidity in the stomach.
  • Saliva naturally contains compounds that convert starch into sugar.

There is no reason to worry if your baby or toddler is drooling excessively but is otherwise healthy. However, you can curb it if you know what’s causing it.

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[ Read: How To Reduce Spit Up In Babies ]

What Causes Excessive Drooling In Babies?

The following conditions can lead to excessive drooling in infants and toddlers:

  1. Teething: Excessive drooling is usually the first sign of teething (4). Your baby can have their first teeth somewhere between five and seven months, when they may salivate more than usual(5).
  1. Orofacial abnormalities: Anomalies of the facial bones, mouth, or lips all contribute to orofacial abnormalities. In most cases, these problems are congenital. Numerous orofacial conditions such as cleft lip and dysphagia can cause excessive drooling in babies (6) (7). Cleft lip is when the baby is born with a split upper lip. Babies with dysphagia have trouble swallowing. Several problems, ranging from congenital abnormalities to infections can cause dysphagia. Dental misalignment in older toddlers can also lead to drooling.
  1. Upper respiratory illness: Infection of the upper respiratory system may cause a baby to drool more than usual. An example is epiglottitis, an infection and inflammation of the epiglottis, which is a flap of tissue right above the vocal cords. Doctors check for drooling, one of the significant symptoms of the condition (8).
  1. Mental disorders: Drooling is often linked to disorders like mental retardation and cerebral palsy. Drooling is one of the earliest symptoms of cerebral palsy (9) and is also linked to autism (10). Autistic spectrum disorders are often linked with low muscle tone and developmental delay, both of which are said to contribute to excessive drooling.

Whatever is the cause, if the baby is drooling unusually more, you may want to visit a doctor.

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Should You See A Doctor If Your Baby Drools A Lot?

Not necessarily. If your baby is alright in general, then there is no reason to worry about the excess drooling. The condition will go away on its own. But if the following conditions accompany drooling, then it is good to let the doctor take a look:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or above.
  • Excessive fussiness and colic.
  • Inability to eat and sleep properly.
  • Drooling repeatedly, causing the baby to choke. Drooling can also be a sign of a foreign object stuck in the baby’s throat, causing the child to choke (11). If you suspect this, seek medical attention immediately.
  • You notice redness inside the baby’s mouth and the throat.
  • An older infant with teeth has trouble chewing or swallowing.

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[ Read: Amber Teething Necklaces For Babies ]

How Is Drooling Treated In Babies?

Usually, drooling will not require treatment. If the baby displays other signs of a problem, then the doctor will diagnose the underlying condition causing the drooling and then proceed to treat it. Treatment could range from medication in the case of respiratory infections to corrective surgery in the case of cleft lip.

Sometimes, a little home care is all that is needed to deal with drooling in babies.

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How To Manage Drooling At Home?

Managing all that excess saliva is easy with a few simple steps like the ones below:

  • Put on the drool bib. You can buy a drool bib and let the baby wear it all the time. Drool bibs absorb the saliva and prevent it from creating a mess. Bibs made from cotton work the best due to the material’s excellent absorbent capabilities. Keep several drool bibs handy, for you never know how much your baby may drool today. Keep changing the bibs and wash them every day with a baby-safe disinfectant detergent.
  • Keep tissues handy. If you are outdoors, carry a pack of tissues in your baby’s diaper bag. Wipe the excess drool and throw the tissue in a dustbin right away. If you do not have a dustbin around, then place the tissues in a plastic bag so to throw them all later.
  • Give a teething toy. If your baby drools predominantly when he/she is teething, then give them a teething toy. It can help relieve the sore gums and bring down the excess salivation stimulated by irritated gums. Avoid teething necklaces since they increase the risk of strangulation and are not recommended by pediatric experts (12).

Treatment of the underlying condition will also work against excessive drooling. Eventually, the drooling should stop.

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[ Read: Baby Teething Toys ]

How Long Does The Drooling Last In Babies?

Drooling will stop between the age of two and three years. By the end of toddlerhood, most children stop drooling even if they are yet to get permanent teeth. If your child continues to drool excessively beyond the age of three, then it is advisable to take them to a doctor. Drooling could suddenly start in older toddlers if they contract a respiratory illness.

Your child will often drool during infancy and toddlerhood. But as your little one grows older, the instances get fewer. Be observant and aware of the child’s overall condition to figure out why the child may be drooling. For all you know, the toddler or child simply saw something very delicious and started drooling!

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Have you had to deal with excessive drooling in babies? Let us know about your experience in the comments section.

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