Baby Bad Breath: Catching the Culprit


A big variety of smells come along with a tiny newborn baby. There are so many divine-smelling lotions, cleansers, and oils available that contribute to the freshness of a newborn baby. On the other hand, newborn babies have some smells that are not so pleasant, like baby bad breath.

Common causes of bad breath

There are several causes of baby bad breath that are perfectly normal, such as:

  • Food – Gas bubbles from a recent meal could produce bad baby breath.
  • Putting fingers, toes, blanket, or toy in his mouth – An infant will put everything in his mouth; it’s part of how he learns and explores new things. When a toy goes in his mouth, the drool can dry and have an unpleasant smell. The next time he puts that toy in his mouth, that smell can contribute to baby bad breath.
  • Dry mouth – Babies often sleep with open mouths, which allows air to enter and dry out the mouth. Bacteria in the mouth, especially in the pits and fissures on the back of the tongue, feed off mucus or leftover food/drink in baby’s mouth. These produce stinky gases, or bad baby breath smells.
  • Reusing a pacifier – Some babies use the same pacifier multiple days in a row. It’s important to clean these frequently by boiling them in water for 5 minutes or running them through the disinfecting cycle in the dishwasher so they won’t get smelly and cause baby bad breath.

Medical causes of baby bad breath

It is possible a medical condition is causing baby’s bad breath. These include:

  1. GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease) – When stomach acids regurgitate into the throat, it can cause an acidic scent.
  2. Allergy or cold – Extra mucus translates to extra opportunities for bacteria to grow, making baby’s breath smell bad.
  3. Sinus infection – Fluid collects in the nasal passages and drips down the back of the throat to the tongue.
  4. Dental problems – Even if your baby has few teeth, poor oral care can lead to tooth decay. This can easily be ruled out by a visit to the dentist.
  5. Large tonsils – Food or nasal secretions can get stuck in the pits of large tonsils and create a foul smell.
  6. An object stuck in baby’s nose – Yes, a hidden pea or small toy stuck in baby’s nose can make baby’s breath smell bad as it decomposes. If your baby’s breathing is normal, you may not even notice something is stuck.

Your child’s pediatrician should be consulted if you suspect any of these to be the cause of your baby’s bad breath.

What can I do to get rid of baby bad breath?

Baby bad breath doesn’t need to be alarming; there’s a lot you can do to make those yucky smells go away. For infants, bad breath can often be remedied by practicing good oral hygiene. Wipe your baby’s gums and tongue gently with a soft toothbrush after each feeding and before bedtime.

Also, washing baby’s hands, pacifiers, and toys frequently will help keep dried mucus off and control some of the smell.

For professional answers to more frequently asked questions about newborn babies, visit our Neonatal Advice section.


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