Why Do Newborn Sticking Tongue Out And When Should They Stop?

Babies Tongue

Babies have an adorable habit of sticking their little tongues out. While super cute, this common behavior has many parents wondering: When will my baby stop sticking their tongue out constantly?

Babies stick their tongues out for a variety of reasons. It is most often a normal part of their development. Understanding the developmental stages behind this reflex can help parents know what to expect.

This article will cover:

  • Reasons babies stick their tongue Out
  • When babies outgrow the tongue thrust reflex
  • Tips to help babies develop tongue control
  • Signs it could indicate a disorder
  • When to see a doctor

So read on for a complete guide to this charming phenomenon!

Why Babies Stick Their Tongues Out

Babies stick out their tongues for many different reasons during their first year of life. Here are some of the most common:

  • Exploring New Sensations: Babies experience the world primarily through their mouths. Sticking out the tongue allows them to explore new tactile sensations. The feeling of air on their tongue excites their developing senses.
  • Strengthening Oral Muscles: Moving their tongues in and out helps strengthen the baby’s oral muscles. This builds up the strength needed for feeding, swallowing, and eventually speech.
  • Sucking Reflex: Newborns have an instinctual sucking reflex. Sticking out their tongue activates this reflex, which helps them latch onto the breast or bottle.
  • Hunger Cues: Around 6 months, babies realize sticking out their tongues can signal hunger. Parents may notice the baby sticking its tongue out when it’s time to eat.
  • Imitation: Between 6-12 months, babies begin imitating the behaviors of others. They stick out their tongues in response to a parent or sibling doing the same.
  • Teething Discomfort: The swelling and irritation of teething may cause the baby to stick its tongue out for relief. The cool air can soothe tender gums.
  • Oral Exploration: As they grow, babies use their tongues to explore objects. They may try tasting or mouthing items by sticking out their tongue first.

So while startling at first, frequent tongue protrusion is perfectly normal for most infants. It does not indicate any medical problems.

As babies develop coordination and communication skills, the behavior typically fades.

When Do Babies Outgrow the Tongue Thrust Reflex?

The tongue thrust reflex is an instinct all babies are born with. This reflex causes a baby’s tongue to push forward when something touches its lips or mouth.

The tongue thrust reflex serves an important purpose. It:

  • Protects babies from choking
  • Helps them latch onto the breast or bottle
  • Allows them to feed and swallow milk

This reflex starts fading between 4-6 months of age in most infants. By this time, babies have gained more control over their tongue movements. They can keep their tongue back in the mouth when needed.

However, some babies may continue sticking their tongues out well beyond 6 months. They may do it out of habit or distraction. Usually, this behavior resolves on its own as oral coordination improves.

Most babies fully outgrow the involuntary tongue thrust reflex by 9-12 months of age. If a child continues protruding their tongue past their first birthday, parents should consult a pediatrician.

While each child develops at their own pace, persistent tongue thrusting could indicate an oral motor delay. A speech-language pathologist can evaluate any oral motor or feeding concerns. Early therapy is key to helping babies reach their developmental milestones.

Tips to Help Your Baby Develop Tongue Control

While the tongue thrust reflex will fade in most babies, some extra practice doesn’t hurt. Here are some fun ways to help your little one gain control of their tongue:

  • Play Copycat: Stick out your tongue and encourage your baby to imitate you. Making silly faces together is a great way to interact and strengthen oral muscles.
  • Explore Textures: Let your baby suck on safe, soft objects like silicone teether toys. Varying textures stimulate the tongue and improve coordination.
  • Massage Gums and Tongue: Gently rub baby’s gums, lips, and tongue with a clean finger or soft cloth. This provides sensory input and soothes teething discomfort.
  • Sing Songs with Tongue Movements: Songs like “This Little Piggy” channeled through the tongue get the baby moving their mouth.
  • Offer Various Food Textures: Once on solids, provide an array of purees, cereals, crunchy foods, and cup drinking. Variety keeps the tongue active.
  • See a Speech Therapist: If tongue thrusting persists past 1 year or causes feeding issues, see a pediatric speech therapist for exercises and training tips.

With patience and playful practice, you can help your little one learn to keep their tongue where it belongs. But don’t discourage all tongue play—an occasional tongue stick can still be awfully cute!

When Tongue Protrusion May Indicate a Disorder

While short-lived tongue thrusting is normal in babies, chronic or excessive tongue protrusion may indicate an underlying issue.

Contact your pediatrician if your baby:

  • Has difficulty eating or swallowing
  • Seems to have trouble breathing
  • Has weak sucking and poor weight gain
  • Continues sticking tongue out past 18 months
  • Has differences in muscle tone or movement

Frequent tongue protrusion can signal:

  1. Oral Motor Delay: Poor oral coordination makes it hard for the baby to control tongue movements. Difficulty eating and speech delays may also occur. Early intervention is key to overcoming an oral motor delay.
  1. Small Jaw/Large Tongue: A small mouth or jaw can’t contain a normal-sized tongue. This may cause constant tongue protrusion. Cleft palate, Pierre Robin sequence, and Down syndrome can cause this.
  1. Low Muscle Tone: Hypotonia (low muscle tone) prevents the tongue from staying back in the mouth. Genetic disorders like Down syndrome often accompany hypotonia.
  1. Tongue-Tie: Ankyloglossia (tongue-tie) limits tongue mobility, potentially leading to protrusion difficulties. Other symptoms include trouble breastfeeding and speech issues.
  1. Enlarged Tongue: Macroglossia, or an abnormally large tongue, may cause constant protrusion. This could stem from a birth defect, syndrome, or problem with the hormones that regulate growth.

Don’t panic if your baby sticks their tongue out often. But do contact their doctor for an evaluation if concerns arise. Early treatment of any underlying conditions can get the baby’s development back on track.

When to Call the Doctor About Tongue Protrusion

While it’s common for babies to stick their tongues out frequently, it’s a good idea to call the doctor if:

  • Your baby sticks their tongue out constantly and struggles to pull it back in
  • Tongue thrusting persists beyond 18 months of age
  • Your baby has trouble latching or difficulty feeding
  • You notice signs of dehydration or poor weight gain
  • Your baby seems to be experiencing discomforts like stuffiness or gagging
  • Tongue protrusion accompanies delays in other milestones

Frequent tongue thrusting alone isn’t worrisome before one year. But combined with other symptoms, it could indicate an underlying condition requiring treatment.

Your pediatrician can check for signs of oral dysfunction or genetic anomalies at your next well-visit. They may refer you to a pediatric dentist or speech therapist for further evaluation.

The earlier you seek help, the quicker baby can get back on track developmentally.

Takeaway: Enjoy Those Little Tongues

Don’t let your baby’s tongue antics get your own tongue in a twist. Odds are it’s just a normal part of their self-discovery. With time and maturation, babies gain control of their tongue movements.

Use this behavior as a chance to connect with your little one. Make silly faces, read books, and sing songs that get their tongues wagging. With fun and patience, their wayward tongues will learn to behave.

In the meantime, lean into those adorable toddler photos. Soon enough you’ll miss that small tongue sticking out as your baby learns to rein it in.

So capture those grin shots while you can! With the right developmental support, your baby will be using their tongue for talking, eating, and giving kisses in no time.


Most babies stop frequently sticking their tongues out between 9-18 months old as oral coordination improves. While involuntary tongue thrusting is normal at first, persistent protrusion past a year may signify an underlying issue.

Contact your pediatrician if tongue poking accompanies feeding problems, speech delays, or other developmental concerns. With patience and playful practice, you can help your little one gain control of their tongue. Soon those purposeful tongue wags will become a thing of the past!


Is it normal for babies to stick out their tongue?

Yes, it is completely normal for babies and toddlers to frequently stick out their tongue. Babies often stick out their tongues when they are concentrating, transitioning between activities, exploring sensations in their mouth, or expressing emotions. Sticking out the tongue is one-way babies communicate and make sense of the world. As long as the tongue sticking out behavior is not accompanied by other signs of a health issue, there is generally no cause for concern.

What age do babies stick their tongue out?

Most babies begin sticking out their tongues between 3 and 6 months of age as they start to gain more control of their mouth muscles. Sticking out the tongue often coincides with babies discovering their hands and learning to grasp objects. Tongue protrusion typically peaks between 9 and 12 months and gradually lessens as babies hit the toddler years.

Is it normal for baby to stick tongue out when smiling?

Yes! It is very common and normal for babies to stick out their tongues when they smile, especially during the first year of life. Sticking the tongue out while smiling is a developmental milestone that shows babies are gaining motor control of their facial muscles and oral cavity. It also indicates that babies are experiencing joy and positive emotions that they express by combining smiling and tongue protrusion.

What does the tongue out pose mean?

The tongue out pose is an expression where a person sticks their tongue out, often while smiling or making a silly face. There is no single meaning behind this expression – it can have various purposes and convey different things depending on the context and person. Generally, sticking the tongue out is a playful, sometimes teasing gesture that implies silliness, fun, or joking around. It can also convey a childlike or mischievous attitude.

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