How to Clean a Baby’s Tongue

A Comprehensive Guide to Cleaning Your Baby’s Tongue (Newborn and Beyond)

You’d be forgiven for thinking that if your baby doesn’t have teeth yet, oral hygiene isn’t really a concern, but the truth is that even before your child has any toothy pegs to scrub, there are things we can and should do to keep their mouths healthy.

One such thing is cleaning their tongues.

So, to give you a heads-up and a head-start on this lesser-known facet of baby maintenance, I’m going to tell you why and exactly how it should be done.

Let’s get to it!

Why Should You Clean Your Baby’s Tongue?

To quote the hilariously understated film, Withnail and I, “Look at my tongue. It’s wearing a yellow sock”.

We all know the unpleasant feeling of a substance lining our tongues, which is why we give them a good scrub with our toothbrush every night before hitting the hay, but compared to babies, our tongues don’t get half as messy.

It may not seem like it when they’re drooling all over you and themselves, but babies actually produce a lot less saliva than us big kids, which means more residue can adhere to their tongue and cause white, milky build-ups.

This lily-white surface is the perfect place for bacteria to multiply, and even though there are no teeth there to latch on to and decay, it will turn your baby’s sweet breath sour and may cause problems when your child finally starts teething.

Another practical reason to start early with oral hygiene is that it prepares your child for the toothbrush later on in their development, making life an awful lot easier for you.

How to Clean a Newborn’s Tongue

Do you want the good news or bad news first? The good news is that giving your newborn’s tongue a scrub is a quick and easy process. The bad news is that it should be done twice a day.

I know, I know…you’ve got a business to run, but it’s not a big deal if you miss a cleaning here and there.

Just do your best to keep up with this schedule, and make sure to teach anyone who will be looking after your baby what you learn here today. That will take some of the pressure off you.

All you’re going to need to get that tongue squeaky clean is some warm water and a clean washcloth. Alternatively, you could invest in some of these disposable tongue cleaner gauzes, or even a baby finger toothbrush.

Here’s how it’s done.

  • Give your hands a thorough clean with soap and warm water, then dry them off.
  • Rest your baby horizontally over your lap and cradle their head in your hand.
  • Dip the cleaning utensil of your choice into the warm water. If you’re using a washcloth, fold it over your finger.
  • As softly as you can, open your baby’s mouth. It can be tricky with one hand, but you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly.
  • Using a gentle, circular motion, rub their tongue with your cleaning material.
  • Continue until their tongue is noticeably cleaner. You may need to give your cleaning utensil another dip in warm water at some point.
  • While you’re in there, you might as well give their gums and the inside of their cheeks a quick once over as well.
  • To do so, grab a fresh bit of cloth or a new gauze, dip it in the warm water, then use the same technique as you did with their tongue.

Do I Need Toothpaste to Clean My Baby’s Tongue?

I know that cleaning our mouths without toothpaste seems sort of redundant, but it’s just not necessary for children under the age of 6 months.

A lot of people think it’s unsafe due to the glycerin in toothpaste (the stuff that gives it a lightly sweet taste and creamy consistency), but glycerin is completely non-toxic.

The issue is actually the fluoride content. As you can’t wash your baby’s mouth out after a clean, they’ll swallow most of the fluoride, which can lead to dental fluorosis, a discoloration of the enamel when their teeth come in.

A Note on Thrush

Caused by oral candidiasis, oral thrush is a fungal infection of the mouth.

A case of oral thrush in a baby will often go undiagnosed because it looks very similar to the milky sock we’ve already talked about; however, there is one key difference that can help you identify the issue.

Whereas milk will rub off the tongue quite easily, thrush will not, so if you’re having trouble cleaning your baby’s tongue, it’s time to call your pediatrician, as the only way to get rid of oral thrush is to treat it with antifungal medicine.

How to Clean a 6-Month Old Child’s Tongue

At this point in time, your little bundle of joy will have sprouted their first tooth — exciting! So, that’s your cue to bring some baby-friendly toothpaste into the equation.

You don’t need any paste to scrub their tiny tongue, but if you want, you can rinse their baby toothbrush and use that.

Alternatively, if they’ve become accustomed to the sensation of a washcloth on their tongue, you can carry on exactly as you were before their first pearly white arrived.

Do bear in mind that, at this stage, you don’t need much toothpaste at all — we’re talking a blob the size of a grain of rice. When your child reaches 3 years old, you can switch it up to a pea-sized blob.

Summing Up

There you have it, folks; everything you need to know about cleaning your baby’s tongue. Ideally, it should be done twice daily, but don’t sweat it if you miss the odd scrub here and there.

You won’t need any toothpaste.

A washcloth and some warm water will work just fine, and you can use the same gentle circular motion technique for newborns all the way through to 6-month olds and beyond.

Oh, and don’t forget to give their gums and the sides of their mouth a quick once over while you’re in the area. All the best!

Categorized as Baby