During infancy, a child’s
mouth is her main source of pleasure and satisfaction. She enjoys
sucking at the breast or bottle, drinking warm milk, and sucking on
her fingers or thumb. Starting at about six months, she also gets
oral enjoyment and relief from teething by sucking and biting on
objects around her.
Babies don’t just put things in their mouths for pleasure or
comfort, though—they also use their mouths for exploration. They
learn about objects by tasting them, feeling their texture, and
experimenting with them. Until a child is about two years old, many
things that she plays with will eventually go into her mouth. She’ll
pick up things from the floor, chew on her stroller safety strap,
and even try to put her parents’ keys in her mouth.
Because she can’t tell what are safe or unsafe, parents have to be
very watchful. If your child is at this oral stage, you must pick up
pieces of fuzz, crumbs, and small toys so she will not accidentally
choke on them. You also have to be sure that the objects she puts in
her mouth are clean.
This developmental phase may seem long and tiresome to you, but if
you start pulling safe objects out of your child’s mouth, or telling
her that “only food should go in your mouth,” you will be depriving
her of pleasure and a chance to explore. Try instead to realize and
accept the fact that she has to put objects in her mouth because
that’s a major way she learns about her environment.