Why Do Babies Blow Bubbles?

Raspberries and Spit Bubbles: Welcome to Early Parenthood

There's more to raspberries than a cute interaction between a baby and, well, anybody―they set the foundation for the fine motor skills needed to eat, drink and speak. Blowing raspberries and forming those cute little bubbles of saliva essentially comprise a "mouth workout" for your little one. But raspberries and bubbles make up a small part of the mouthy milestones that start at around 3 months old.

The Whens and Whys

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OK, you know raspberries and bubbles help develop fine motor skills, but to what end? That's almost an open-ended question; every step in a baby's development builds off the previous one, so you could argue that blowing bubbles develops the basic skills needed for survival: talking, chewing and drinking, for starters.

At around 6 months, you'll notice the emergence of raspberries, which appear concurrently with hand-to-mouth movements, recognitive smiling, babbling and sound imitation, among other mouthy movements. You likely noticed increased salivary production over the previous three months, too; from 3 to 6 months, babies produce extra saliva in preparation for the emergence of their first tooth. But that's not all that seemingly innocuous saliva can do.

Role in Digestion

Though your little one might seem connected to a dribbling hose, all that saliva and those bubbles do more than release copious amounts of oxytocin in loving parents. Saliva neutralizes stomach acids during digestion while converting starches to sugar for ready uptake in the gut, and that's in addition to moistening the mouth and foods, preventing tooth decay, easing swallowing, and washing away food residue—now that's a mouthful!

Symptomatic Drooling

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While you can expect excessive drooling until about 18 months, keep an eye out for any abnormal drooling. If your baby drools suddenly, has trouble breathing, and doesn't speak (or babble), she might have food or a foreign object lodged in her throat. Drooling accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, aches and pains, can indicate infection. Look for these signs:

  • Drooling plus a fever of 101 degrees F or higher, lack of appetite, swollen glands and sore throat might indicate strep throat or tonsillitis
  • Drooling plus gasping for air with an open mouth could mean your child has epiglottis
  • Drooling plus painful oral ulcerations can indicate hand-foot-mouth disease or a variant of the herpes virus
  • Drooling plus unconsciousness, tremors or violent shaking often indicates a seizure

Expect a little drooling during the first couple years after birth. If the drooling continues, or occurs suddenly and in conjunction with other symptoms, play it safe and pay your health care provider a visit.