Extrusion reflex in babies
A baby is born with different reflex actions which help them to adapt themselves to the outside world, which they were not exposed to inside the womb. These reflex actions are involuntary and occur as a response to a stimulus. A reflection will occur without deliberate thinking. The reflex of extrusion, also called a tongue thrust reflex defends a baby from choking on food or other objects.
The extrusion reflex is seen in action when defending and encouraging a baby to thrive. This may also be so if a spoon meets the tongue of your infant. When this happens, it is a natural reaction that a baby would have a reflex action. This is because it ensures that the thrusting prevents every other object except a nipple from a bottle or breast from going through. This reflex facilitates the sucking process required to allow a baby to take the necessary liquids.
Although the first development of the extrusion reflex in the womb is not evident, it is present in most newborn children. In the early months of a baby’s life, tongue pushing is necessary because the muscles have yet to learn to consume more than fluid. This reflection acts in combination with the sucking reflection, which takes 32 to 30 weeks of pregnancy. The sucking reflex encourages a baby to take breast milk or nipple or bottle formulation.
The reflex of extrusion fades away within 5-6 months post-birth. By this age, the parents start to feed their children solid food. The loss of the reflex allows babies to start weaning from the breast or bottle and to learn to eat cereals or pure foods. This reflex may be expressed in certain children’s childhood or older years. It might be a warning to talk to your doctor if this happens. If the tongue continues to thrust past puberty, it may cause tooth alignment problems. It may also influence speech production, such as lisp formation during the speech.
When should you start giving your child solid food?
Experts suggest that you must wait to feed solid foods for a baby between 4-6 months of age. Certain organisations now set the time at 6 months, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. The extruder and gag reflexes are still high before this stage. You must obey the signals whether your child is ready to eat solid food.
If your child does the following, he is ready to eat solid food:
- Starts holding his head up without your support
- Sits in the chair on his own.
- Starts to open his mouth when being fed with a spoon
- Pulls his upper and lower lip inwards when the spoon is taken away from the mouth
- Has weight equal to or more than 13 pounds (5-6 kgs)
If your child even after a few days or weeks seems to be disinterested in solid food, it means that their extrusion reflex is still strong. It should have a minimal effect by the 6 months from birth, however, if your infant still finds it difficult to consume solid food, contact the doctor. Premature babies have to wait for a longer period than those born after the completion of the gestation period.
In premature babies, the extrusion reflex can last for more than 6 months, as anecdotal evidence suggests its development in the womb. However, even if after a considerable amount of time, the baby is not able to consume solid food, the doctor must be consulted for the same. Generally, if the baby is born on the due date, you can start giving it solid food after 6 months. However, if the baby was born before the completion of 9 months, he should only be fed solid food after at least 6 months and 3 weeks.
How to deal with extrusion reflex?
One cannot do anything to alter the extrusion reflection of your baby at this age. Extrusion reflex typically vanishes alone about 4 to 6 months after the birth of your infant. For certain infants, though, it can take longer for the tongue-thrust reflex to stop. (This is the most common explanation why you are encouraged to breastfeed or formula feed your baby exclusively for the first six months.)
You can do nothing to speed it up. Don’t think that your baby pushes solid food away because you don’t like the taste or because he’s immature for solid food. That’s a common misunderstanding. It only indicates that his swallowing mechanism is not yet ready for solid food. There is a very significant indication that your baby can consume solid food because of the lack of extrusion reflex. Don’t be worried when your baby spits solid food over and over again.
As the reflex starts to fade and your baby begins to eat solid foods, you need to think about the establishment of a routine for oral care. You can make the first visit to the dentist along with your baby first in six months after your first tooth has emerged or at the age of 1.
The Dental Center will enable you to plan your baby’s diet according to his requirements. By this time a good oral care regimen is important. Once the reflex actions start to fade, parents can rub the gums of his baby using a soft cloth; the food particles are absorbed by the gentle rubbing. Later, a soft baby’s toothbrush can be replaced with a cloth.
When should a doctor be consulted?
Extrusion reflexes are normal and have no long-term consequences and go away as the baby grows old. It’s never a cause for alarm. If you see that even though your baby is older but continues to have extrusion reflex on being offered solid food, it could be due to poor alignment of teeth or the lips while speaking.
If you notice signs of an irregular tongue thrust reflex in older children, you will just have to contact your paediatrician or a dentist.
The child may show the following symptoms:
- Resting the tongue on the wrong spot
- Is still breastfed
- Opens resting lips
- Faces difficulty in chewing his food
- Breathes using mouth
- Has oral sores
- May also have chapped or cracked lips
The reflex of extrusion is a natural part of a baby’s life. In reality, it shows your child is healthy and well-growing. Keep good oral hygiene and clean your baby daily. Using a clean wet cloth to clean the baby’s gum can prove to be beneficial.