Chew on This: What's OK to go in Baby's Mouth
Mouthing is an important part of how babies explore their world, but this developmental phase can also be hazardous
Tips for Babyproofing Your Home
The best way to begin babyproofing for mouthing, Kelly Smith advises, is to get down on your child’s level. Below are some of her specific suggestions about what to look for.
- Check floors for small objects that could pose a choking hazard (run your hand underneath the edge of the couch, inside the cushions, under the edge of furniture, etc.).
- Move breakable and/or small items such as figurines, ceramics, marbles, vases, and so on, to higher locations where children can’t reach them.
- Remove tablecloths and coverings that toddlers may try to pull on.
- Install a lock or baby gate on older children’s bedroom doors to keep little ones out.
- Remove two-piece doorstops, which have small parts that can be choking hazards, and replace them with one-piece doorstops.
Remember that as your child gets older, she’ll develop more advanced ways to thwart your safety measures, and your childproofing strategies will need to keep pace. For example, placing dangerous items on a high shelf might be sufficient to prevent your one-year-old from eating them, but if your two-year-old knows how to pull up a chair and climb for an out-of-reach object, these items should be in locked cabinets.
What if It’s Too Late for Prevention?
Your child has a small item it his mouth, but hasn’t swallowed it yet. If he won’t spit the object out when you ask, gently squeeze his cheeks to open his mouth and then sweep the item out with your hooked finger.
Your child has swallowed a small object, such as a coin, but he seems fine. Don’t panic. Miraculously, most small items will pass through a child’s system without causing harm. But do call your child’s pediatrician. She can give you a list of symptoms that might indicate a problem.
Your child has swallowed something toxic. Call Poison Control at (800) 222-1222 or call 911. Have what your child ingested in hand so that you can describe it or read the label if necessary. Never try to induce vomiting unless specifically instructed to do so by a medical professional.
Your child is choking or unconscious. Call 911 immediately and begin CPR. Always keep instructions for performing CPR and the Heimlich maneuver someplace handy in case of an emergency, and remember that you will need a different set of instructions for babies under the age of one. If your child recovers from a choking episode either with or without help, she should still see a doctor right away.
Keeping It All in Perspective
As worrying as the dangers may sound, Dr. Thompson has some words of comfort for parents who are concerned about mouthing. “When it comes to mouthing, the most important thing for parents to remember is that it’s part of normal development, as is being exposed to germs.” So, she says, “do your best, but don’t sweat the rest.” After all, kids do successfully pass through the mouthing phase eventually. Take me, for example—I almost never eat cigarette butts these days.
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