Baby Chewing With Nothing In Their Mouths? Unlock the Truth Here!

Written by Daisy
Last updated:
Reviewed by Margaret

Should you be concerned when you find your baby chewing with nothing inside their mouth? Being a parent like you, I wanted to put an end to my constant battle with paranoia – is there something wrong?

In this article, we will go through a complete dive and understand the oral exploration of babies, the possible reasons why they do it, what we should do as parents and many more!

The reason your baby is chewing nothing in their mouth could mean many things, but the most common reasons include building up instincts and habits, they’re exploring, they’re mimicking behavior, they’re relaxing, or they could just being plain hungry.

The website’s general material is given for informative purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. This article has been reviewed by the necessary medical and healthcare professional Margaret Dogwood, BSN, RN we work with. In no way do we claim this a certified medical report.For emergencies, contact your local physician or certified healthcare provider RIGHT AWAY!

Understanding the Baby’s Oral Exploration

Before we dive right into discussing their internal exploration, let us first try and understand what they’re potentially thinking about when they’re chewing – or at least what it means!

Out of all that we can think of, as it turns out, it’s just a normal developmental phase! “Well, I’ll be darned!” will be what you’ll say to how natural it is.

Catch this: Our babies exploring the environment through the mouth is like a tasty little adventure for those tiny taste buds, figuring out what it is they truly want.

Babies use their mouths as little sensory superheroes, gathering all sorts of information about the world around them. It’s like their mouth is their own personal detective, searching for clues through touch, taste, and texture.

Infant expert and researcher, Kristen M. Moyer, M.D., says that they consider their mouths their world because these are comprised of sensory nerves, making them feel more!  

             The sensory nerves in their mouths and lips, on the other hand (pun intended), allow a newborn to truly grasp the nature of an object.”

But what could other reasons be? Is it something to be worried about?

Baby Chewing With Nothing In Their Mouths? 5 Possible Reasons

Don’t panic! If they’re not trying to bite and chew on their tongues, it shouldn’t be a problem! We’ve done due diligence and looked at all possible angles and possibilities on why your baby is chewing even if they have nothing in their mouths!

As a bonus, I’ll also throw something in while they sleep!

Possibility #1: They’re Developing Instincts and Habits  

Most parents don’t notice it, but most babies have a natural need to chew and use their mouths for exploration. It’s encoded into their little systems – like how we complain whenever we get angry!

Kidding aside, I mean, we all have habits and instincts – and that is one of the common scenarios with babies. Think about getting a punch, your basic instinct would be to block that punch, parry, or dodge it. The same thing goes for babies! They just don’t know it yet!

Their instincts take over and they begin chewing even when there is nothing there to gnaw on. It appears as though their little lips perform their long-standing chewing rituals automatically.

Robert Rich Jr., M.D., FAAFP says that this is usually due to the fact that this is the only “survival” instinct that babies know.

             This is a basic instinct for survival. Babies have the skill to find and latch onto a nipple to eat and feed themselves. Like clockwork, the baby will turn their head, open their mouths, and start sucking if you stroke the side of their face with your finger or breast.”

It’s almost like it happens automatically!

Possibility #2: They’re Copycats

I don’t know about you, but when other people see my baby, they say that my baby is like me – after copying and pasting my facial features! Well, in fact, babies are excellent little mimics. They watch everything we do, including how we speak, act, behave, and eat!

Well, they might want to join in the fun if they notice you eating lunch. Even though they don’t have anything in their mouths, it’s like them seeing something they want to copycat, as they mimic what you are doing.

I’ve had a friend who told me a story about their baby constantly (but lightly) chewing on something even when nothing was in their mouth – and then he told me they were having dinner at the time while the baby’s in the activity center, and that’s where it hit!

Reason #3: They are Trying to Explore

When would babies start learning everything around them if they didn’t start it while they were young? In fact, did you know that children who are four to six years old ask an average of 400 questions a day?

And what better way to begin their adventure of discovery than with their mouths? It’s the closest thing to them, and their best friend, especially since it is what feeds them!

Under their lovely button noses, or should I say, snuggled between their gums, it seems like they’re doing a small scientific experiment.

Reason #4: Relaxation and Self-Soothing 

Humans have superpowers, too! It is when we dive deep into the world of self-soothing! It’s truly remarkable how infants instinctively find solace in their own actions. I’m not talking about fantasy powers, though – I’m talking about the magic that the human body has on itself!

DID YOU KNOW: When our little ones sense a danger, inconvenience, and restlessness – or even just a tinge of unease, they often seek refuge and find what they’re looking for in their own mouths!

It’s not uncommon for babies to instinctively turn to this oral haven to seek solace, find respite from their worries, or experience a gentle calming sensation.

They will overall feel calm, tranquil, and comfortability. It’s like their own stress reliever – talk about not finding out about stress balls yet. Therefore, even in the absence of something physical to chew on, they find comfort in the act of eating.

Reason #5: They’re Hungry

Sometimes, overthinking gets the best of us as parents and we forget some of the most obvious things around us. I mean, think about it – why would they imitate a chewing motion? I don’t know about you, but from where I came from, imitating something means that you want it for yourself.

Carissa Stephens, R.N., CCRN, CPN says that babies, especially newborns use nothing but their mouths as hunger cues.

             In truth, a newborn baby’s mouth is where they express their hunger the most. Your baby may also slap their lips or open and close their mouth to signal to you that they are ready to eat, according to WIC Breastfeeding Support.”

As parents, let’s all remember that our babies aren’t born with the same hair – each baby is unique. What that means is that what works for you might just not be the solution other parents are looking for. So, to be sure of your every move, contact your pediatrician right away!

Baby Chewing Motion in Sleep

Have you ever seen your little one move their mouths while they’re deep asleep? It’s fun and cute to watch our babies while they’re sleeping, but, you could be bothered by how they abruptly move their lips and mouths!

Don’t worry, though! Let’s get started and learn more about the intriguing realm of baby sleep! As it is for them, it’s also helpful for parents like us!

Dreams

Babies dream too, you know! It’s not like their minds are blank in the duration of the most precious time of their day.

Their small minds can paint up all kinds of absurd scenarios while they sleep, and the act of chewing might be a reflection of those vivid dream experiences… or they could just be looking for something to eat!

It seems as though their little jaws are just playing along in dreamland while their imaginations run wild.

Teething Discomfort

Teething is the major turning point that can be both happy and painful. Your kid may experience some discomfort when those tiny pearly whites begin to erupt.

I mean, teeth growing out can be extremely painful, especially for babies and newborn children! So, while they’re sleeping, the chewing motion is actually a way for them to ease and soothe what they’re feeling.

Chewing develops into a natural reaction to ease the tension and calm their sensitive gums. Thus, even while they are sleeping, they want to chew arises, providing them with much-needed relaxation. Should this be the case, Healthline suggests doing natural remedies for your little one!

Reflexes

Reflexes, those uncontrollable behaviors that keep us alert, ahh! Numerous reflexes are present from birth, and some of them can be highly active while a baby is sleeping.

For instance, when their cheeks or mouths are stimulated, newborns’ rooting reflex causes them to turn their heads and chew. So those reflexes can still function even in the domain of dreams.

One of Mayo Clinic’s Pediatricians, Dr. Jay L. Hoecker says that chewing motions during sleep is actually normal and substantially safe for them. Emphasizing on parents not worry about it.

             These motions are a normal aspect of their mouth muscles’ development and shouldn’t worry parents in any way.”

Of course, too much of something is not a good thing, right? So, when are these actions and activities dangerous? When should you, as parents, consider seeking professional medical help?

When To Worry About Baby Chewing With Nothing In Their Mouths?

Being parents, it’s just safe to have limits or points, especially when it comes to the actions of our babies. And while it’s common for infants to chew even when nothing is in their mouths, there are some instances in which it’s best to consult a pediatrician.

It’s crucial for parents to be aware of any warning signs that could point to underlying health problems. So, if your baby is exhibiting any or more of the following, contact your local healthcare professional immediately!

Loss of Appetite or Difficulty in Eating

It’s crucial to see a pediatrician if your infant is showing you any signs of difficulties in feeding like trouble with latching, gagging, choking, or being in pain whenever they’re swallowing.

This is a problem that can be the root of many other problems in the future so don’t hesitate to contact a professional right away.

If, for us adults, these are already problems, what more with our babies? Additionally, these difficulties could point to difficulty with swallowing coordination or oral motor function

Excessive Random Chewing

If your baby starts chewing more frequently, more intensely, or for longer periods of time than usual, this could be a problem. Although chewing can be a type of exploration or soothing mechanism for them, they should not do it for long periods of time.

Moreover, if it starts to upset or interfere with the activities and routine, she’s grown accustomed to, you should definitely go see a pediatrician for it.

Exaggerated Crying

It is equally important to immediately speak to a medical expert about the symptoms that your baby is displaying if it includes extended fits of uncontrollable crying. I don’t know about you, but when I feel like my baby’s cries are too much, I panic and always ring a healthcare practitioner up!


You May Also Like:

My Baby Vomits After Eating Rice Cereal

Why Breastfed Baby Breath Smells Like Sour Milk?

Why 2-Year-Olds Talking Gibberish?


FAQs

Parents! Don’t worry! Our team and I listed some of the new parents’ questions about this!

Why Does My Baby Move His Mouth When Sleeping?

While asleep, babies can smack their lips and move their mouths! What this simply means is that they’re either in deep sleep and they’re dreaming about eating or they’re trying to soothe themselves out – it’s natural!

Newborn Baby Chewing With Nothing in Mouth

Don’t fuss and panic when you notice your baby chewing even if they don’t have anything in their mouth! It can be a non-verbal cue that they are hungry and need something to eat, they could be exploring, they could use it as a soothing mechanism, or they could be teething!

Why Does My Baby Act Like He’s Chewing On Something?

The act of “chewing” something even if they don’t have anything in their mouths can actually be a sign of something else. Whether it’s their way of telling you they need something or they’re exploring, they’re looking to be soothed, or they could be teething!

The Bottom Line

It’s usually not something to be afraid of, and it’s definitely non-hazardous, if not excessive. When you see your baby chewing with nothing, it’s usually something about development.

Whether it’s the development of their eating habits or digestion, in their mouths, even with their non-verbal signs, as parents, it is our responsibility to know and be aware of it! 

Photo of author
Daisy Martinez, a Certified Financial Planner and mother of two, blends finance expertise from Ohio State and Anderson School of Management with hands-on parenting insights. Founder of "mamallove.com" and "cashsavvytips.com", she's passionate about guiding parents in financial and parenting realms.

Get a freebie every week!

Join 40,000+ parents and teachers , and you'll get a freebie in your inbox at least once a week, along with tips, information, and other resources!

Subscribe to the Mamallove newsletter: