Before having kids, I would see the babies around my neighborhood donning adorable bandana bibs and assume that their parents were just really into accessories. In Brooklyn, babies are seriously stylish after all. But then I had my own little bambino and I realized that those cute baby bibs aren't accessories, they're necessities. Babies drool a ton, and it's hard to contain the slobber. But why do babies drool all the time, and what can you do to manage it?
It's easy to assume that all that saliva is just teething-related, but babies start to drool well before their first tooth pokes through. "Drooling typically begins between 2 and 4 months, but in most cases, those first pearly whites don't pop through until 6 to 9 months. So don't break out the teething ring if dribble is your baby's only symptom," explained Parents.
If teething isn't the culprit for all that slobber, what is? It turns out that drool is a sign that your baby's salivary glands are becoming active. "Babies don’t actually make much saliva until they are 3 months old. Their purely liquid diet is easy to swallow and mother’s milk doesn’t have starch in it, so babies don’t even need some of the digestive properties of saliva. Drool develops just when the baby needs it," explained Baby Science.
Since some babies begin to show signs of readiness for solid foods around 4 months of age, the drool development is perfectly timed. "The digestive functions of saliva include moistening food, and helping to create a food bolus, so it can be swallowed easily," according to Science Daily.
In addition to making eating easier for your little one, saliva also washes away food residue and protects their teeth, according to Healthychildren.org. For anyone who has ever tried to brush their infant's teeth only to fail miserably, take heart — that extra saliva is nature's way of preventing tooth decay!
And speaking of teeth, doesn't drool have to have something to do with teething? From observing my teething 16-month-old, I would say that there has to be some connection between all that drool I'm seeing and those upper teeth of hers trying to come through. It turns out there is some science to explain this too. "The theory is that the increase of muscle movement in the mouth during this teething period simulates chewing, which activates the salivary glands," explained Dr. Hanna, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, in an interview with Parents.
So if you notice that your baby is drooling more than usual, and is exhibiting signs like irritability, lack of appetite, red and swollen gums, or an increase in wanting to chew on pretty much everything in sight, then your baby is most likely teething, according to Healthline.
With all that drool, you're likely to encounter some drool rash around your baby's mouth and chin area. "Gently wipe excess drool off the skin with lukewarm water and pat (don't rub) dry. Lubricate with a mild emollient such as Nature's Second Skin or cold-pressed coconut, almond, or safflower oil," advised Parenting.
I took a cue from those trendy Brooklyn babies and got my little one some baby bandanas too. They're perfect for dabbing away the excess saliva and come in sizes up to 3T, which is perfect for your little one late to the teething party. My 16-month-old daughter only has her bottom two teeth (so late, I know!) but I have the feeling she's getting all the rest, all at once.
Since I am currently dealing with one cranky, teething, drooling kiddo, I've been doing a deep dive on all the teethers out there, and it turns out, not all teething rings are created equal. If you're in the same boat, here's a bit of advice: "Teething rings are helpful... but they should be made of firm rubber. The teethers that you freeze tend to get too hard and can cause more harm than good," explained Healthychildren.org.