The position of the tongue during rooting reflexes elicited in newborn infants before the first suckle

Acta Paediatr. 1993 Mar;82(3):281-3. doi: 10.1111/j.1651-2227.1993.tb12660.x.


A common breast-feeding problem is when the infant "places its tongue in its palate" and has difficulties in attaching to its mother's nipple. The aim of this study was to document the position of the tongue in the mouth cavity during rooting reflexes elicited in newborn infants before the first suckle. Eleven healthy, full-term infants were videotaped 101 +/- 31 min after birth during an evoked distinct rooting reflex before the first suckle. The videotaped rooting reflex was analyzed in detail concerning the degree of turning of the head, mouth opening and position of the tongue, in pictures that were "frozen" at specific intervals. "Licking movements" preceded and followed the rooting reflex in the alert infants. In 10 of the 11 infants the tongue was placed in the bottom of the mouth cavity during a distinct rooting reflex (p = < 0.05). It is suggested that forcing the infant to the breast might abolish the rooting reflex and disturb placement of the tongue. A healthy infant should have the opportunity of showing hunger and optimal reflexes, and attach to its mother's nipple by itself.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn / physiology*
  • Reflex / physiology*
  • Sucking Behavior
  • Tongue / physiology*