Surely you’ve already seen what your little one puts in their mouth. Whether toys, keys, dummies, the corner of your favourite book or a toothbrush - (almost) nothing is safe from the baby in the oral phase. In this article we will explain why this is the case and how long the oral phase lasts.

Baby chewing on toy

The mouth is the most important sense organ in the oral phase

First of all, the sense of touch is most pronounced in your little one. Your baby will also put their own hands in their mouths more often from the age of three months, as they see them as toys.

Two more months later - from around the age of five months - the oral phase sets in. You may already know this term from psychology. Originally the definition goes back to Sigmund Freund and describes the "sensual" experiences that newborns have with their mouth. According to the theory of psychosexual development, they serve to satisfy the child's need for hunger, thirst or closeness.

The tongue and lips are important sensory organs that help your child to perceive things in their environment better. If your baby puts objects in their mouth, they can explore and get to know them thanks to the sensitive nerve endings. Since these are normal development steps, you shouldn't keep your baby from doing it.

Ultimately, the oral phase is very important, as children train their jaws and lips with the chewing and sucking movements. This way, they indirectly prepare to speak and eat solid foods. Furthermore, your baby will practice grasping and automatically improve their hand-eye coordination.

The Oral phase and eating

In the first year of life, table manners don’t play a role for children, as they first have to get used to solid food. So it’s normal for toddlers to try food first and then spit it out again. This is completely natural and an indication that your little one is now dealing with their food. You can easily prevent a big mess by using both a bib and a washable table mat with meals.

Pay attention to hygiene during the oral phase

It’s perfectly understandable that when your baby puts everything in their mouth you are initially concerned. Therefore, you should make your home even more “child-safe” during this phase. Sharp, pointed or dangerous objects such as cleaning supplies, medication, glasses, cables, cutlery, poisonous plants and alcohol should be kept in a safe place.

If you want to offer your child something to ‘chew on’, age-appropriate toys are suitable. Babies can safely chew on saliva-proof toys that have a seal of approval and are free from plasticisers. It’s also not necessary for you to meticulously disinfect the toys afterwards. The principle here is clean, but not sterile. It’s completely sufficient if you simply rinse your favourite objects under running water and occasionally wash them in the washing machine.

Important: You should avoid small parts of any kind that can be swallowed, as small children can choke on them in the worst case. Coins, buttons, toys that can be taken apart, but also edible sweets or nuts are therefore not suitable for the oral phase.

The Oral phase lasts until about eighteen months of age

Although small children develop at different speeds, the oral phase ends at around 18 months. Nevertheless, there are children who continue to chew on other objects occasionally and explore their surroundings in this way. Perhaps in 1-2 years you will be amazed to watch your child licking car windows or chewing on ribbons - of course, after saying a hundred times that this is not healthy. Take it easy with your child - normally the germs they come into contact with even strengthen the immune system, so there’s seldom a serious illness.

Baby milestones