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Importance of Extrusion Reflex in Babies

Your baby’s early milestones, from learning their first words to the first steps, are joyful and exciting. But first, you need to know about the extrusion reflex – a normal phenomenon in which a baby spits out solid food using their tongue.

Although it may seem discouraging that your baby does not want to try new textures, this reflex is a basic instinct to protect them. Keep reading to discover the fundamentals of introducing solid foods to babies and about the importance of the extrusion reflex.

What Is Extrusion Reflex?

The extrusion reflex, also known as the tongue-thrust reflex, is an involuntary response commonly observed in newborns. When a baby’s lips or the area around their mouth is touched, their tongue automatically protrudes outward in a sucking motion. This reflex is a primitive survival mechanism designed to help infants feed efficiently from the breast or bottle during the early stages of life.

Why Is Thrust Reflex Present in Infants?

Babies can latch onto a nipple and avoid choking because of the extrusion reflex. When an object, such as a spoon, touches or depresses the baby’s tongue in any manner, it will exhibit this reaction. The infant will respond by pushing their tongue out of their mouth, blocking all other access points except from a bottle or their nipple.

Signs of Extrusion Reflex

You can do the tongue-thrust reflex test by simply offering him a clean spoon as if you are feeding him.

  • If the tongue of the baby pushes forward, rejecting it, that means the reflex is present at this time.
  • If the infant opens his mouth and takes the spoon, the reflex is either decreasing or is gone entirely.

You can also check for the following indicators when adding solids to your baby’s diet:

  • Sits up in his chair
  • Starts keeping the head up independently
  • When removing the spoon from his mouth, he drags his lower and upper lips inside

If your child already shows all these signs but still does not want to eat solid foods, then you may try again after a couple of weeks. It will take approximately six months for a baby’s strong extrusion reflex to go away.

You might need to wait longer to start solid foods if your delivery is premature, so it’s advisable to discuss this with your doctor or a professional. In most circumstances, if the kid is born on the due date, you can introduce foods to him according to the schedule he would follow.

When Does Extrusion Reflex Go Away?

The extrusion reflex typically diminishes and eventually disappears between the ages of 4 to 6 months in most infants. As babies mature and their oral motor skills develop, they gradually outgrow this reflex.

By around 6 months of age, many infants have transitioned to more coordinated sucking and swallowing patterns, allowing them to consume solid foods with greater ease. The disappearance of the extrusion reflex coincides with the introduction of complementary foods and the baby’s readiness for spoon feeding, marking an important milestone in their developmental journey.

Some children may have an extrusion reflex during their early childhood or later on in infancy. If this is the situation with your baby, you should consult your doctor. The alignment of the teeth may be affected if the infant continues to protrude their tongue even though they have grown it. It might also lead to difficulties with speech development.

When to See a Doctor?

Extrusion reflex is a natural developmental stage in babies and will not cause any long-term problems as long as it disappears when the child grows older. If your child exhibits this reflex even as a toddler or older baby, though, it may result in creating a speech impediment or overlapping his teeth. Consult with your paediatrician or paediatric dentist if your older children exhibit unusual tongue thrusting. A few examples of these symptoms are:

  • Reflex persists beyond 6 months of age
  • Breathing by the mouth
  • Extended tongue
  • Open sleeping lips
  • Mouth sores
  • Cracked or chapped lips from frequent licking
  • Having trouble chewing food
  • Tongue resting in an incorrect position

A paediatrician can conduct a thorough assessment to determine if further evaluation or intervention is necessary. Timely medical attention can help address any underlying issues and support the baby’s overall development and well-being.

Challenges Associated with the Extrusion Reflex:

While the extrusion reflex is essential for early development, it can also pose challenges, particularly during the introduction of solid foods. As babies transition to spoon feeding, the persistence of this reflex may lead to difficulties in swallowing solids. However, with time and practice, infants typically outgrow this reflex, allowing for smoother transitions to solid food.

How to Deal With the Extrusion Reflex?

There’s nothing you can do to change the baby’s extrusion reflex because it usually goes away on its own between the ages of 4 and 6 months (this is one of the main reasons why breastfeeding or formula-feeding is recommended for the first 6 months after birth). But, for some infants, the reaction can take longer to go away and in such cases, there is nothing much the parent can do.

One common misconception regarding the extrusion reflex and solid food feeding is that mothers sometimes assume that their baby rejects solid food because he is a picky eater or because he does not like the taste of it.

It might indicate that the infant is not ready to eat solid food and that his swallowing mechanism is still not developed enough. This is one reason why the loss of extrusion reflex is regarded to be a major sign of the readiness of the baby to start taking in solid foods.


Don’t be worried if your child is frequently spitting out solid foods. Wait a few weeks before trying to feed them solid meals. Make sure the baby is sitting up straight each time you feed him solid food. This can be accomplished by placing your infant in a baby-chair.

The extrusion reflex may seem like a simple involuntary response, but its significance in the early stages of life cannot be overstated. By recognising the importance of the extrusion reflex, parents and caregivers can better understand and support the needs of their infants during this critical period of growth and discovery.

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