Updated: Jun 4
Are you finding your baby’s bib drenched in drool more often than not? Drooling is a common occurrence among babies and even toddlers, but it can be frustrating for parents who are trying their best to keep them clean and dry.
Although it may seem like an endless problem, there is usually a simple explanation for why your little one might be drooling more than usual and there are ways to help both of you cope. In this article, we'll take a look at why babies drool as well as offer some useful tips on what you can do to make life easier (and less messy!).
In this article
What is drool?
The function of drool
Just like adults, babies' salivary glands produce saliva (also called spit), a clear, watery liquid.
Saliva plays several important roles in your baby's body. It aids their developing digestive system by helping to break down solid food before it enters the stomach and making it easier for them to swallow. Saliva also helps to keep your baby’s mouth healthy by protecting their new teeth and gums from bacteria.
When excess saliva runs out of your baby's mouth, it's known as drool.
Around 4 or 5 months, you may notice that your baby has started blowing bubbles with their drool.
This is because your baby has started noticing and trying to imitate the sounds that you make, including blowing raspberries. This is an important communication milestone!
Your baby's salivary glands
A baby's salivary glands develop when they are in utero, but they produce very little saliva for the first couple of months.
Around 2 months of age, your baby will likely start drooling as their body begins preparing to digest semi-solid foods in a few more months.
Your baby's mouth muscles
Children don't develop full control over their swallowing muscles until they are approximately 18 to 24 months old. This means that most babies have plenty of saliva flowing but little control over it.
Peak drooling ages
As discussed above, most babies start drooling around 2 to 3 months of age.
Drooling tends to peak around 6 months of age.
As your baby develops the fine motor skills needed for chewing solid food, motor receptors in their mouth will send signals to their brain to initiate saliva production. So drooling corresponds with readiness to eat solid foods!
It's common for children to continue to drool until they are 2 to 3 years old, as they develop the fine motor skills necessary to control swallowing and keep up with their saliva production.
If your child continues drooling excessively past 3 years, it could indicate an underlying medical condition.
Consult with your child's doctor if you have any developmental concerns.
Typical reasons why babies drool
As discussed above, the underdeveloped muscles in a baby's mouth and face prevent them from having full control over their swallowing. Very young babies also lack front teeth, which can help to block the flow of drool.
As babies develop more muscle control, they will be better able to swallow saliva and will drool less.
The teething process
Many babies drool more than usual when they are cutting a tooth. Teething causes irritation and discomfort, but the additional drool helps to soothe their sore gums and make it easier for the new tooth to grow in.
This excess saliva typically eases once the new tooth comes through.
Not all babies will drool more when they are teething, however. Some might experience increased fussiness or trouble sleeping, or have no symptoms at all.
You may find that your baby's drooling increases when they are sick. Some types of sickness, such as colds, cause your baby to produce more mucus, which in turn stimulates the salivary glands and results in more drool.
Other illnesses that can cause increased drool include strep throat, hand-foot-and-mouth disease, and (in very rare cases) meningitis.
Illnesses such as stomach viruses do not directly cause an increase in drooling. However, a baby's mouth might produce more saliva if they are vomiting, as an automatic response to protect their teeth from stomach acid.
If you are concerned about your baby's drooling—and especially if they are experiencing other symptoms—you should always consult with their healthcare provider.
Dealing with excessive drooling
Excessive drooling (also called "hypersalivation") is common in babies and is usually a normal part of their development. However, in rare cases uncontrollable drooling can point to more serious medical conditions, including the following.
Oral motor delays
Babies with delayed oral motor development, which can include low muscle tone in a baby's facial muscles, may produce too much saliva and/or have difficulty coordinating their swallowing muscles.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease
Babies with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may produce more saliva to protect their mouths and throats from stomach acid.
To learn more about GERD, check out Why Babies Spit Up and How To Help.
Children with conditions such as cerebral palsy, global developmental delay, or hypotonia (low tone) may have increased drooling as well. This can be caused by multiple aspects of their development, including impaired facial muscles, increased secretions, or poor swallowing ability.
When to be concerned about baby drooling
Consult with your healthcare provider if your child exhibits the following symptoms:
Your baby is drooling so excessively that they are regularly soaking their clothes.
Your baby's skin is becoming irritated from drool and regularly wiping and applying a barrier cream is not helping.
Your baby's drooling is accompanied by a delay in motor skills, which could indicate a developmental concern.
If your drooling baby is experiencing the following symptoms, you should seek immediate medical attention:
Your baby is having difficulty swallowing or seems to be choking on their saliva.
Your baby is showing respiratory symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, gasping for air, or irregular breathing patterns.
Your baby has a high fever and/or is lethargic or refuses to eat, which can be signs of an infection.
Managing excessive drool
In the vast majority of cases, drooling is not the result of anything concerning, but it can still be problematic. In addition to creating a lot of laundry, drooling can cause irritation or even rashes on a baby's face.
To prevent and ease discomfort, try the following tips:
Keep your baby's mouth and chin dry by wiping frequently with a soft cloth
Use bibs to absorb saliva and protect clothing
Consider applying a moisture barrier cream to prevent rashes (especially before bedtime)
Offer a teething ring to soothe gums and ease discomfort
Change clothing whenever necessary to keep your baby dry
Avoid tooth decay from excessive drooling--no bottles at bedtime and wipe your baby's teeth with a clean cloth
If you are concerned about the causes or side effects of your baby's drooling, it's always appropriate to consult with your child's doctor. They can recommend remedies to prevent or reduce discomfort.
Treatment options for uncontrollable drooling can include medication to reduce saliva production and even Botox injections, but these are used only in extremely rare cases.
Drooling is a common side effect of your baby's development and in most cases it will taper off as they get older. So don’t worry – just try and keep them dry and change their clothes if they get wet or soiled with drool.
Before you know it, these days of constantly wiping their chin will be a thing of the past.
Leung AKC, Kao CP. Drooling in children. Paediatr Child Health. 1999 Sep; 4(6): 406–411. doi: 10.1093/pch/4.6.406
Watanabe S, Ohnishi M, Imai K, et al. Estimation of the Total Saliva Volume Produced Per Day in Five-Year-Old Children. 1995. Archs oral Biol. Vol. 40, No. 8, pp. 781-782.