Your baby puts everything in her mouth; fingers, toes, and toys, even the little bits of lint that she finds on the floor…ew! It’s natural to find this practice disgusting, and many parents constantly worry about germs and choking.

When your baby begins crawling it only gets worse…she can now access just about everything on the terrain! This can create lots of nerve-racking and dangerous scenarios. I’ll never forget that moment—it was the ultimate parent’s nightmare—when my four-year-old got into my sewing kit and poured out a box of tiny pins, all over the floor, right near where the baby was crawling. I let out a scream, scooped up the baby, and looked around frantically for some way to pick up the pins. Thankfully, I had an idea. I grabbed a magnet from my fridge, left the baby safely enclosed in her high chair, and used the magnet to collect the pins and whisked my sewing kit away to a new, safer storage location!

It’s situations like these where parents earn their stars, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Keep hazardous objects out of reach. Balloons are also a serious choking hazard, so try not to have them around infants. If you have other children, keep an eye on their toys with small parts. Check the floor for choking hazards before putting your baby down to play.

The good news is that your baby’s habit of putting everything into her mouth is a normal stage of development. Babies learn about the world around them through exploration, and mouthing objects is their way of exploring. It may also be their way of dealing with new little teeth pushing through her gums!

Mouthing toys is perfectly normal, but talk to your pediatrician if you notice any of the following symptoms or behaviors. They may be reason for concern:

  • Your child does not begin exploring and mouthing objects by 4 months of age
  • Your child has excessive drooling or swelling of the gums
  • Your child’s mouthing does not significantly reduce by 12 months of age
  • Your child demonstrates excessive mouthing of specific textures or objects
  • Your child demonstrates excessive avoidance of certain textures or objects

Knowing what’s typical and what’s not will help you keep an educated eye on your child’s development.