The Extrusion Reflex in Babies: What You Need to Know

babel · December 21, 2021
Today, we're going to tell you what the extrusion reflex consists of and what happens if a baby continues with this active mechanism after 6 months of age.

The extrusion reflex is one of the automatic responses that the body has in the face of a certain stimulus. It disappears with age and it’s common for it not to recur when the baby begins to be fed with a spoon. Now, in some cases, it can last a while longer, and we’re going to tell you what happens in these cases.

First of all, you have to know that it’s crucial to take maximum care of a child’s diet in order to achieve adequate development. It’s best to only offer breast milk for the first 6 months of life and then gradually introduce healthy complementary feeding.

What’s the extrusion reflex?

The involuntary outward movements that a baby makes with their tongue when something other than breast milk is put into their mouth is known as the extrusion reflex.

Its reason for being is to avoid choking or the consumption of substances that are potentially harmful to health during the first stages of life.

All babies have this reflex and it usually disappears spontaneously after the first 6 months of life.

At the moment in which complementary feeding begins to be offered, the extrusion reflex is no longer positive but rather quite the opposite.

However, until the sixth month, it’s not a good idea to include foods other than breast milk in their diet, as they could trigger allergies and intolerances. In fact, extending breastfeeding beyond the first year, although not exclusively, has proven to be very beneficial for the health of the little one.

A small child eating fruit.

Spoon feeding and the extrusion reflex

Complementary feeding begins after 6 months and aims to meet the nutritional requirements of this stage. This doesn’t mean that breast milk or formula should be replaced, but rather that breastfeeding should be supplemented with other foods.

In order to introduce the semisolids, it’s essential that the baby be able to sit up with support and keep their spine upright. Also, they must have a certain interest in food and must be able to grasp objects with their hands.

At the same time, it’s decisive that the extrusion reflex has disappeared. Otherwise, the child will push the food out and make it difficult to eat.

An important aspect is that the disappearance of the extrusion reflex indicates that the baby’s intestine is ready to receive foods that are more complex than breast milk. From this point on, the kidneys will also have matured enough to cope with an increased workload.

Can the extrusion reflex be maintained beyond 6 months?

In some cases, the baby maintains the extrusion reflex beyond 6 months. If this happens, exclusive breastfeeding should be continued for a longer time. In any case, you don’t need to worry as this situation simply indicates that the child’s body isn’t ready yet, but it will soon be.

You also have the option of supplementing with formula milk from this moment to cover the increase in needs. You can choose a product supplemented with omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for the neurological development of the baby and to prevent some allergies. Of course, you’ll need to avoid those that contain added sugars inside.

A baby chewing on a teether.

The extrusion reflex, a common mechanism in the first months of life

As you’ve seen, the extrusion reflex is a common reaction in babies during the first months of life. It has a protective role and reports that the body isn’t yet ready to receive solid food.

Normally, this reflex disappears only after 6 months but in some cases, it may take a little longer.

Finally, keep in mind that it’s essential to maintain breastfeeding until the first year of life, even if complementary feeding has already started. This food has all the nutrients that the baby needs, in addition to providing a series of bioactive substances that protect it against the development of many chronic and complex illnesses.

  • Mosca, F., & Giannì, M. L. (2017). Human milk: composition and health benefits. La Pediatria medica e chirurgica : Medical and surgical pediatrics39(2), 155. Disponible en:
  • Miles, E. A., & Calder, P. C. (2017). Can Early Omega-3 Fatty Acid Exposure Reduce Risk of Childhood Allergic Disease?. Nutrients9(7), 784. Disponible en: