When thinking of bad breath, we don’t often think of a baby. Because babies have a sweet smell unless their diapers need changing, right? Although halitosis is not very common among babies, it can be an indication that something is wrong.

Causes of Bad Breath Among Babies

If you have noticed that your baby has bad breath, you will need to find the cause. The potential causes are numerous, so some detective work may be in order. The important thing to remember is that you should never ignore bad breath in newborns or infants because it may be an indication of a throat or mouth infection – a serious health problem.


Sinusitis is a potential cause of foul breath. If your baby has this condition, they will also experience other symptoms like sneezing and a runny nose. Although the symptoms of sinusitis mimic those of the common cold, sinusitis has a longer duration. It could be caused by allergies that cause them to have a stuffy nose. This forces them to breathe only through their mouth, which dries it.

Dry mouth is known to cause bad breath. If you believe that your child is suffering from a sinus infection, book an appointment with their doctor to get to the bottom of it.

Acid Reflux

Children suffering from acid reflux also tend to regurgitate their food. This condition happens because the area between the esophagus and stomach has not yet matured, leading to the flow of stomach acids back into the throat, causing your baby to spit up.

In most cases, acid reflux among babies will resolve itself on its own, but you can also help by doing the following:

  • Feed your baby food in smaller amounts, but more frequently.
  • Part way through your baby’s feeding, burp them.
  • Hold your baby upright following feeding.
  • Try a new baby formula.
  • When breast feeding, eliminate dairy products from your diet to rule out allergies.

In most cases, medications are not advised for babies with uncomplicated acid reflux. Your baby’s pediatrician may recommend an acid blocker like Zantac for infants of a certain age.

Other Potential Causes of Bad Breath

The presence of bad breath may not always indicate an underlying health condition. The food and drink that you offer your baby may be sticking to their tongue or gums, leading to the growth of bacteria that causes a foul smell. The use of a pacifier and thumb sucking can also be a trigger.

Thumb Sucking

Almost 80% of children and infants suck their thumbs. While this is normal behavior, it can also cause a dry mouth and bacterial overgrowth, which leads to bad breath. By the time they have reached the age of four, most children will have given up this habit.

thumb sucking

If your baby’s bad breath is caused by thumb sucking, you can use a soft, warm washcloth to clean their gums, mouth and tongue on a regular basis.

Pacifier Use

Oral bacteria can accumulate on a baby’s pacifier, resulting in an unpleasant smell that transfers to the mouth of your baby when the pacifier is in their mouth. If your baby still requires a pacifier, sterilize it to eliminate all bacteria and germs.

Too Much Sugar

Milk, formula, and sugary foods and beverages can also cause a baby to have bad breath. Wipe down their gums twice daily, particularly after food consumption. Avoid the over consumption of sugary food products and drinks.

Other Conditions

Rarer causes of infant bad breath include diabetes and chronic kidney disease. If you have tried all other treatments, and your baby still has bad breath, you should make an appointment with their pediatrician to have them checked out. 

If your baby is suffering from bad breath, you should bring it to the attention of their pediatrician. They can help diagnose problems like infections, sinusitis, and other problems that may be causing the foul odor.

You can do your part at home by ensuring that your baby’s mouth is clean, and that their pacifier is sterilized. Offering your child proper oral care will greatly assist them in maintaining fresh breath.

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