BEGINNING CHEWING: THE JAW, GUMS, AND TEETH
Part of the movements of eating include chewing. Chewing involves the opening and closing of the jaw as well as the interaction of the teeth (however many there are at the time) with the food. Most babies instinctively put things in their mouths from a very early age, and do so increasingly as the months progress. Often mothers instinctively take the objects quickly out of the babies mouth because it may be dirty. However, babies must put things in their mouths to learn how to chew. This is where they learn the action of closing the jaw and connecting the teeth with an object. Ideally, parents would provide baby with chewable objects that are safe and clean. Avoid objects with small parts that may break off, are coated in paint that may contain lead, or constructed from brittle and breakable plastic. Look for objects that are made for babies to place in their mouths and chew on them.
OBJECTS FOR BABY TO CHEW
Today there are many wonderful teething rings and animals made out of rubber. Some can be placed in the freezer so the coolness calms baby’s gums when teething. Another common item babies can chew on is a good cloth that is occasionally boiled in water to keep it clean. Some parents tie an ice cube or a piece of apple in a square of cloth. Another favorite idea is to give baby a frozen bagel. Baby can also learn to be more aware of her gums by rubbing the length of her upper and lower gums with the tip of your index finger. As she feels the gums more clearly, she will use them more easily. When teething this can also ease some discomfort.
By remembering that baby learns to chew partly by opening and closing the jaw and sinking her teeth into something parents can support the developmental process by providing baby not only with safe objects, but also with a variety. Baby has a different sensation when biting into a cold cloth versus a rubber teething ring or a cool apple slice versus a frozen bagel. Let the baby chew!