But when does drooling fall into the category of excessive drooling?
The amount of drooling varies with all babies, and some do it more than others. However, once teething has stopped and you are still using a bib or neckerchief to capture the drool or protect the clothes, it is probably safe to say that your child is an excessive “drooler”.
The reason children drool is simple. When they don’t have what therapists call “good lip closure”, the mouth tends to hang open.
Saliva pools in the front of the mouth and eventually spills out. Because the mouth is hanging open, gravity pulls the saliva forward. Your baby or toddler does not get the saliva to the back of the throat so she can swallow.
Drooling is often seen in low tone children. But it is also present in children with normal tone who get engaged in activities and forget to close their mouth. Whatever the underlying cause, the solution is the same. Your child needs to close her mouth and swallow.
For those children who have good oral tone (muscle tone in and around the mouth), there is a simple activity which really helps. Give your child a Popsicle or craft stick, and have her hold it in her mouth crosswise by clenching her teeth. In order to keep the stick in place, she has to keep her mouth closed. You can give her the stick for a few minutes each day during play time. If she has older siblings, try to make a game of “see who can keep it in place the longest”. Children love to imitate older siblings. If there is no other child, you can offer a sticker or small treat for keeping it in position.
Drooling is also related to postural position. It is easier for a child who sits up straight to get the saliva to the back of the mouth and swallow than it is for a child who hunches and doesn’t keep their head up during activities. If the latter describes your child, then it is a good idea to try my ball exercises that I discussed in other blogs (there is also a video).
If you think that your child may be drooling because of low tone, you can do some activities that will help with mouth closure as well. Blowing is a great exercise for oral tone. Depending on the age and ability of your child, you can pick and choose what will work best. An activity that is popular with most children is blowing feathers across a surface. The feathers are interesting and colorful, and lightweight enough for even the weakest “blow” to move. Blown-up balloons also work well. Just place them on any surface and see if your child can blow them off or up in the air. If your child is capable, have her blow a whistle or musical horn designed for babies and toddlers. My son had one that he used in the tub and could fill with water at different levels to create the various notes.
A good supplemental tool you can use to help promote tone around the mouth is a vibrator (believe it or not). You can probably find one specifically for the mouth if you search online, or you can just buy a small one like you see at the checkout counters of some stores. If it is large enough so that your child can’t swallow it, you can let her put it in her mouth. All babies love vibration. You can also hold it lightly against the area surrounding the mouth and lips. This can be repeated as much as you want throughout the day.
The last thing I want to recommend at this time is food related. Certain foods require more chewing than others. If your child is able to eat solids, then you want to add textured foods like meat and vegetables that require more chewing and swallowing. More chewing equals more exercise!
The activities I have just suggested are recommended to decrease drooling and improve tone. If you suspect that your baby or toddler may have a swallowing problem, please check with your pediatrician or have her evaluated by a licensed speech pathologist.