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Why babies drool

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Q. Why do babies drool?

A. Drooling is normal in infants, says Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park. "There's a honeymoon period after a baby is born in terms of drooling," Adesman says. The drooling doesn't usually begin until 2 to 4 months old.

"Parents often see it as a sign of teething," Adesman says. "It's often a false sign. The two are not linked."

Saliva production increases to help babies prepare for digesting solid foods, and saliva also helps with mouth hygiene by washing gums and teeth. But at the same time, babies don't yet have that unconscious method of swallowing, so the saliva tends to pool and hence the drooling. "Saliva is good, although it can be a nuisance for parents," Adesman says.

"Don't be too concerned; it's something that's going to get better over the long haul," Adesman says. "If it causes a problem, it's most likely going to be having a rash around the mouth." He suggests dabbing the face dry instead of rubbing, which can further irritate skin. You can also put a barrier cream or ointment such as Vaseline around the mouth.

The drooling should slow down by 12 to 15 months old, although it can persist longer in some kids. You would want to talk to your pediatrician if your child is still drooling beyond 18 to 24 months old, or if a sudden, acute episode of drooling comes on, Adesman says.

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