At this stage, your baby's extrusion reflex s coming to surface day by day. What is extrusion reflex, you may ask? We will discuss it in less than 10 seconds, but before that, you must know that currently, your little one is an all-around explorer, especially when it comes to things related to you, he wants to grab them all! Did you notice your baby reaching out to grab the food that you eat? If yes, then it’s time to introduce him to solid food.
First things first, you need to know that babies possess something called “extrusion reflex.” When your baby enters this world, he comes ready with many reflexes to help him out in this new world. Now, what exactly do we mean by a reflex? Well, a reflex is an automatic or involuntary movement or action made by your baby. Your baby will have absolutely no control over such movements. Many of the movements made by your baby are all due to reflex actions.
Reflex movements that are only made by babies or infants are called as Primitive or Infantile Reflexes. One such primitive reflex is the extrusion reflex.
An extrusion reflex or tongue-thrust reflex is the reflex motion that causes your baby’s tongue to move forward as soon as his lips are touched. Extrusion reflex is an automatic reflex wherein your baby will have the urge to regurgitate any food that they eat. In other words, your little one will now have a tendency to push any food placed on his tongue out of the front of his mouth.
This action will take time to subside, so don’t hurry. Mix some infant grain cereal with your breast milk and feed it with a spoon to your baby. Don’t give up if the first spoon gets rejected. Wait for a while and try again.
If you have a newborn in your house, you may be eagerly waiting to start feeding him all the different varieties of food that you have lovingly prepared. After the initial few months of exclusively breastfeeding (or formula feeding) him, at around the fifth or sixth month, you may try to feed your little baby with some semisolid food and then to your surprise he spits it out every single time. You try again with a completely new semisolid food item and he spits it out again! You are completely confounded and have no idea what to do. Sounds familiar?
Don’t worry, what your baby has is called the extrusion reflex also known as the tongue-thrust reflex.
Don’t worry, all babies are born with this extrusion reflex. It is actually his body’s defense mechanism against choking in the initial months. As explained earlier, this reflex motion causes your baby’s tongue to move forward as soon as his lips are touched. This action is useful in breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. However, this hinders swallowing of solid food. You must be wondering about the need or use of this extrusion reflex. During the first few months of your baby’s life, his body is only developing and this tongue-thrust reflex is what protects him from aspirating or choking on foreign objects that accidentally enter his mouth. During this stage (0 to 4 or 6 months), your little one’s swallowing mechanism is capable of accepting only liquids.
Due to this reflex, if something solid accidentally enters your baby’s mouth, it will be pushed out automatically by his tongue thus protecting him from choking.
To be honest, there is nothing that you can do to change your baby’s extrusion reflex at this age. Extrusion reflex usually fades away on its own around four to six months after your baby’s birth. (This is one of the main reasons that you are advised to exclusively breastfeed or formula-feed your baby for the first six months.) However, for some babies, it may take longer for the tongue-thrust reflex to fade away. There is little that you can do to hasten it.
If your baby pushes out solid food, do not think that he is spitting it out because he doesn’t like the taste or that he is a picky eater. This is a common misconception. It is just an indicator that he is not yet ready for solid food as his swallowing mechanism is not mature enough. That is why the loss of extrusion reflex is counted as a very important sign of your baby’s readiness to eat solid food. If your baby spits out solid food again and again, don’t get worried.
Wait for a couple of weeks before trying again. Whenever you try to feed solid or semi-solid food to your little one, make sure that he is in an upright position. By the way, have you bought a baby-high- chair for your little one yet? If not, buy one right away! Baby chairs help your baby sit upright.
Extrusion reflex is natural and has no long-term effects in small babies as long as it fades away as they grow older. It is rarely a cause for worry. However, if you see that your older baby or toddler continues to have this reflex, it is highly probable that he may later have poor teeth alignment or a lisp while speaking. You will need to consult your pediatrician or pediatric dentist only if you find symptoms of abnormal tongue-thrust in older children. These symptoms include:
Tongue resting in a wrong position
Open resting lips
Difficulty in chewing food
Breathing through mouth
Chapped and cracked lips from licking them often
To conclude, extrusion reflex is a normal part of a baby’s life. It is actually an indicator that your little one is healthy and growing well. Maintain good oral hygiene including regular cleaning for your baby. Clean your little one’s gums and tongue (and teeth if any) with a wet washcloth. Do this after feedings or at least once a day.
For more insights into your child's health and development, join the Parentlane Community today.