Becoming a parent is the beginning of a new journey in your life. It means experiencing new joys and making new mistakes, learning through them all. Parenthood is a miracle in itself: this magic of being able to nurture a tiny life into existence, watching it bloom into a grown human being. It makes you discover love and warmth in your own heart, the kind which you never thought you had within yourself.
It takes a lot of work to get through pregnancy weeks, but it takes more to care for a newborn. A newborn is a tiny, fragile creature who is wide-eyed and curious. They may charm you into giving in to their unspoken whims, but there are times when you must resist temptation and make the responsible decision. As confident as your baby might seem in the way they experience the world, you still need to watch out for them and keep them safe.
Even if you may have gotten to know your baby during pregnancy, you need to learn about them all over again once they are born. You need to interpret their signs and care for their fluctuating moods. You need to watch out for those ongoing changes in your little one’s body and understand the kind of attention each of them requires.
One such step in the road to parenting is understanding your baby’s reflexes. As your tiny one has just entered this world, they may not be able to take care of themselves consciously. Because of this, your baby’s body has certain reflexes which make it easy for the baby to survive and get what they need. For example, the sucking reflex helps the baby to drink breast milk or milk from a bottle.
Some of these reflexes may be difficult to understand and tricky to manage. Today, we are going to discuss one such reflex in your newborn: the extrusion reflex.
What is extrusion reflex?
Extrusion reflex, also known as the tongue-thrust reflex, is a mechanism which prevents your baby from choking and ingesting solid food or other foreign objects. You can see this reflex play out by simply touching your baby’s tongue with a solid object like a spoon.
When you do this, your baby’s tongue will thrust out, preventing the object from fully entering their mouth. This is done to ensure that the baby does not consume anything other than breast milk or formula milk.
In the first few months of your newborn’s life, their muscles are not developed enough to swallow anything other than liquids. Hence, this tongue-thrust reflex works and stops the baby from consuming solid food before they are ready to digest it. Hence, if you try to feed any solid foods to the baby before this reflex has faded, your baby will regurgitate the food in response.
Also read: Is Extrusion Reflex Normal In Babies?
Extrusion reflex in babies, when combined with the sucking reflex, also helps the baby to latch onto the nipple of a breast or milk bottle, letting them take in the milk which is their only form of nourishment for those first few months.
How long does extrusion reflex last?
Normally, extrusion reflex in babies fades when your baby is ready to eat solid food, typically between the period of 4 to 6 months. This is why you are usually recommended to only breastfeed your baby for 6 months, after which you can start introducing solid foods.
If your baby has been born premature, you may be asked to wait for a little longer, even if the extrusion reflex has faded. Always make sure to ask the doctor about your baby feeding plan so you can choose the option that is healthiest for the baby’s age.
You can check whether the tongue-thrust reflex is still active in your baby with the help of the following test:
- Offer a spoon to your tiny one and touch their tongue with it.
- If the baby’s tongue thrusts out and rejects the spoon, the extrusion reflex is still active. If the baby accepts the spoon in their mouth, then the reflex has started to fade or has faded completely.
The extrusion effect will fade in time and as the baby grows, you will find that they will eventually want to put everything in their mouth. Oh, all these little struggles of parenthood!
How to deal with extrusion reflex?
Normally, you won’t have to worry about how to deal with extrusion reflex in babies, because it will go away on its own between 4 to 6 months of age, once the baby’s body is ready to accept semi-solid and solid food.
All you need to do up until that point is to feed your baby milk and keep in touch with the baby’s doctor so you can give proper care for each developmental stage. Once your baby is ready and you have received the go signal from their doctor, you can try mixing some grain cereal with breast milk or formula milk and offering it to your tiny one.
There can be cases where the baby may still have this reflex even when the doctor has that the baby is ready to start on solid foods. In such a scenario, there’s no need to panic, just wait for a few days and then try again!
However, it can be concerning if your child still has this reflex beyond infancy. Prolonged extrusion reflex beyond infancy can lead to problems in speech development and tooth alignment.
If your older baby or toddler shows symptoms such as resting their tongue in the wrong position, oral sores, breathing through their mouth, prolonged sucking, open resting lips, difficulty in chewing food, chapped lips due to constant licking, etc. then tell their doctor immediately.
Taking care of baby’s oral health
It is important to mental proper oral hygiene for your little one even before they grow teeth. Your baby’s mouth has less saliva in comparison to yours and hence they may have trouble removing the residual milk, which can lead to the growth of bacteria.
To prevent that, you can clean the baby’s tongue and teeth by using a wet gauze or soft washcloth, wrapping it around your finger and gently loosening the residue on the tongue and gums. Try to do this at the same time every day so the baby adjusts to it as a routine activity. This will help in keeping the baby’s mouth clean while also getting the baby used to future brushing.
In case you observe a white coating on your baby’s tongue which won’t go away even after cleaning, get it checked out immediately, because it may be a because of thrush.
Getting to know your baby can be scary, especially as you experience all these news changes in them. But remember that no one is ready to be a parent, everyone who decides to be one just learns along the way. When you decide to take that responsibility and promise to try your best, you are already one step closer to being a better parent and human. We, at The Voice Of Woman, wish you the best of luck for this journey ahead!