What to do with a weak sucking reflex or lack thereof

A reflex is a spontaneous response to a certain external factor. It can be unconditional or conditional. The first contributes to the existence of man in the external environment. Each child is born with a certain set of such reactions, and among them is the sucking reflex that provides the baby with the conditions for survival.

Sometimes a problem arises with its formation, i.e. it is either completely absent or simply weakened. This is fraught with various complications when feeding a newborn. Young parents need to sort out this issue so that, faced with this kind of pathology, know how to behave and what to do.

What it is

Responsible for the sucking reflex in newborn head stem segments. In its activation involves the nucleus of nerve pairs in the medulla oblongata (its stem part):

  • trigeminal;
  • vestibular;
  • facial;
  • wandering;
  • glossopharyngeal;
  • sublingual.

The relationship of these nerves strictly coordinates the whole process of sucking from beginning to end. After feeding, the reflex weakens, and after 1-1.5 hours it is re-activated. The newborn will suck everything in his mouth: the mother’s breast, the nipple (if he is artificial), his own fingers. This is not a habit at all, as it begins to take shape during the period of intrauterine development.

Scientists have found that this unconditional reaction of the body has a great impact on the health of the child's psyche. Thanks to possession of it, the baby can satisfy hunger, which ensures its survival. Therefore, a bad sucking reflex should be an alarming signal to parents that measures are needed for its quick recovery before it is too late. But how to learn about pathology? Only by comparing with the norm and checking its symptoms.

It is interesting! The sucking reflex is laid already after 15 weeks after conception, that is, long before the birth of the child.


There is a rule when the sucking reflex in a child appears (at what age) and when it fades away. It is important to know to keep track of whether everything is in order with the development of the baby. Any kind of deviation indicates that medical assistance and correction are needed.

  • The makings of

The rudiments of the sucking reflex are already visible on ultrasound, that is, in the mother's womb. On the monitor, you can observe how the baby holds his finger in his mouth - this is the norm.

  • Formation

Finally, the sucking reflex is formed in the very first minutes of a newborn's life. If he is healthy and full-term, it is applied immediately to the mother's breast. After receiving a few drops of precious colostrum, the baby calms down. In such a simple, but very important way, the sucking reflex is activated, the innate instinct is maintained.

  • Fading away

Scientists have figured out when the child's sucking reflex fades in the normal state, carrying out a protective function for the body. However, opinions may differ, until what age this body reaction persists. Most often called 1-1.5 years, when they just advise to wean the baby from the nipples. Although many advise to breastfeed for up to 2.5 years, which is also directly related to the sucking reflex. So the age range, when the child has a sucking reflex disappears, is quite blurred and indefinite.

This is the typical way of forming this unconditional reaction. But sometimes doctors are forced to diagnose (parents can see for themselves) that there is no sucking reflex in the newborn: a certain number of problems with his health disrupt either his development at the pregnancy stage, or its activation after the birth of the child.

Wow! There are also cases when excessively conscientious moms continued to breastfeed for up to 6-7 years, thereby stretching the age range for the extinction of the sucking reflex.

Causes of pathology

Parents should understand that if a child does not have a sucking reflex, he has serious health problems that need to be addressed immediately with the help of doctors. There are several reasons for this pathology:

  • hypoxic or traumatic damage to the central nervous system, which can occur either in the womb or during childbirth (about fetal hypoxia, read here);
  • violation of one of the nerves involved in the formation of the sucking reflex, most often - paresis or paralysis, in particular - the facial nerve;
  • trauma to the medulla oblongata;
  • weakness of the tongue, circular muscle of the mouth, chewing muscles;
  • severe somatic disease;
  • mental retardation;
  • some diseases of the mouth and pharynx: pronounced stomatitis, rhinitis, respiratory viral infections (ARVI, ARD);
  • flat nipple shape of the mother;
  • deep prematurity, when the weight of the crumbs does not exceed 1.5 kg.

If the course of pregnancy or childbirth was complicated by these factors, the newborn has no sucking reflex at all or is reduced to a minimum, which is fraught with starvation of the baby and its inadequate development (both physical and mental) in the future. If you fall into the risk group, it is necessary to check the degree of formation of this unconditional reaction of a small organism from the first moment of the birth of a child. There are several ways to do this. Moreover, the parents themselves can see the pathology, presenting her obvious symptoms.

For your information. The flat shape of the nipples is not a reason to wean a baby. There are ways to pull them out. There are a number of special exercises, proofreaders in pharmacies, and surgical intervention. Take care of this problem in advance, because the formation of sucking reflex in a child also depends on it.


Some signs may indicate the absence of a sucking reflex or its underdevelopment in a baby. Usually they are detected in the maternity hospital, where all measures are taken to save the child. But if for some reason the doctors did not recognize the pathology, the mother herself will be able to see that this reaction of the small organism is underdeveloped. Symptoms of deviation may be as follows.

Complete absence

When applying a newborn to the breast:

  • he doesn't even try to grab the nipple;
  • if you put a breast in his mouth, he will not make any attempts at sucking her, will not hold it in his mouth;
  • this condition lasts more than 12 hours after the birth of the child.

If this is the situation, urgent medical assistance is needed. Parents often ask when a sucking reflex appears in premature babies, since such protective unconditioned reactions develop in these children much later than in healthy ones, poorly developed or absent altogether.

Even with prematurity with appropriate medical care reflex should appear within 24 hours (this is considered normal). A longer period of time will indicate a serious problem.

Underdevelopment, partial lack of formation

After applying the baby to the breast immediately after birth:

  • he makes a few weak smacks;
  • can not keep the nipple in the mouth, although trying to do it;
  • it does not calm down, but on the contrary - it starts crying even harder.

During the following days, the bad sucking reflex may manifest itself in the following:

  • the baby sucks the breast (nipple) not so much as smacking loudly;
  • constantly releases the nipple from the mouth, can not hold it;
  • feeding can last for a long time, but at the same time the breast remains almost full, and the baby is hungry;
  • rarely swallows;
  • lethargic
  • falls asleep right at the beginning of feeding;
  • naughty, crying loudly, sleeping poorly, arched - all because of hunger.

If you notice a weak sucking reflex in a newborn, but you are not sure whether you are right or not, it is better to consult a doctor. He will definitely refute or confirm the diagnosis. Independently, you can only put your own finger in the crumbs of the mouth and observe its reaction. Normally, a healthy baby will immediately grab it and begin to intensively suck. A premature or injured baby will not perform sucking movements. Self-treatment in this case is excluded: the qualified help is required.

Useful information. After the discovery of the absence of a sucking reflex, you should immediately consult a doctor, better - a pediatric neurologist or a neuropathologist. This is his field of activity.


In order to develop the sucking reflex in the newborn, inpatient treatment will be required under the mandatory supervision of a doctor. Not only pediatricians, but also neurologists are already working here. The course of recovery can last at different times, depending on the individual characteristics of the small organism and the cause of the pathology. Usually the resuscitation of the unconditioned reflex occurs as follows.

In the absence of

  1. Treatment of the root causes (trauma, oxygen starvation, somatics, etc.).
  2. If the baby’s sucking reflex has not manifested itself for 12 hours and it has not been applied to the maternal breast, parenteral nutrition (i.e., going past the intestinal tract) is prescribed, usually with a glucose solution.
  3. Tube feeding practice at birth premature babies with a clear decrease in sucking reflex. The volume of food is dosed out by the syringe at the rate of weight of the kid.
  4. To bottle feeding allowed to go after the full recovery of the reflex.
  5. The issue of breastfeeding is solved in each case individually. This takes into account the general condition of the newborn and the stability of its reflex signs. It is recommended to start with 1 or 2 times a day. However, a child can get very tired of this, and then you have to feed him from a bottle. Usually such babies are sent for feeding up to 10 times a day. The main thing here - do not rush things.

With partial failure

  1. Feeding up: since a baby suffers from poor sucking reflex constantly, it is watered from a spoon or from a bottle of expressed milk
  2. A clear feeding schedule: every 2-2.5 hours.
  3. Dummy.
  4. Facial massage before meals.

With a competent approach to the problem, a complete restoration of the sucking reflex in the newborn occurs, which has practically no effect on its further development. This is possible if resuscitation took no more than 1-2 weeks. If they are delayed, the reflex may not return to the child at all, or it will only partially occur. In this case, the comforting forecasts do not have to wait.

In addition. In case of violation of the facial nerve or underdevelopment of the masticatory muscles, a therapeutic massage is given, which gives good results.


The recovery process of the unconditioned sucking reflex can be quite long. Success is guaranteed with proper joint approach of doctors and parents of the baby. According to statistics, such children catch up with their peers by the end of the 1st (maximum of the 3rd) year of life. If the sucking reflex in children was not restored in a timely manner, he has two predictions:

  1. Fatalities due to starvation, since it is the sucking reflex that does not allow people to die from exhaustion.
  2. Nutrition through the probe, as far as possible, but usually these children in 90% of cases die in the first year of life, the remaining 10% have a life expectancy of no more than 2-3 years, as the violation of the gastrointestinal tract occurs, yes and other internal organs and systems develop pathologically.

Scientists also note that in children, early weaned from the mother's breast, fed with mixtures, there is further observed a syndrome of sucking reflex, which is not fully realized. This leads to obsessive neurosis, manifested in varying degrees. Manifestations can be very different:

  • preschoolers have a habit of taking various objects in their mouths (fingers, pen, pencil, dolls, spoon, etc.);
  • schoolchildren have a habit of nail biting;
  • in adults, smoking in large quantities, while they do not take cigarettes out of their mouths for a long time.

For full development in the future, the child must go through the oral, initial stage of the formation of the sucking reflex so that the neurotic reactions are normal. Babies deprived of maternal milk should grow with a pacifier as an object of sucking. Otherwise, having matured, they can actively show real oral aggression (bite, crotch, snarl), this can also be expressed passively (poor appetite, painful conditions). To prevent such troubles from happening to your baby, preventive measures are necessary, and you should start using them even during pregnancy.

Did you know that ... Scolding a child for sucking fingers at any age is strictly prohibited by doctors. This lies in the area of ​​his unconscious, that is, he cannot control it. This is fraught with serious psychological problems for him.


It is quite difficult to develop the sucking reflex in premature babies and newborns even in stationary conditions, since it is laid by nature itself. It is much easier to warn him, that is, to prevent the factors that cause this pathology. What is the future mother able to do as a preventive measure?

  1. To avoid hypoxic or traumatic damage to the central nervous system can be avoided during pregnancy and listen to the doctor during childbirth.
  2. For 9 months, he is constantly monitored by the gynecologist, undergoes all the tests and has all the tests prescribed by him - this will help to identify intrauterine diseases.
  3. By the time the baby is born, the birth canal of a woman should be completely clean and healthy - this reduces the risk of infection of the child.
  4. Constantly check the baby for the presence of stomatitis, which often causes a decrease in the sucking reflex.
  5. Learn how to properly attach the child to the chest from the very beginning (i.e., you need to complete the appropriate courses at the stage of carrying)
  6. Try to do everything to fully convey the pregnancy to the end.

The sucking reflex in newborns is one of the most important innate reactions of a small organism, which has been endowed by its nature to ensure comfortable living conditions and further development. His absence is a real misfortune, most often incompatible with life, and its partial decline is a disturbing signal of serious neurological problems that need to be started to look for immediately and just as quickly be resolved by any available means involving neurologists and other pediatric specialists.

Watch the video: MY SECRET SURGERY. (November 2019).

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