The Oral Phase: This Is Why Your Baby Puts Everything In His Mouth

Your child goes through the oral and anal phases, in which the body and psyche develop in different ways. Let’s look at what is important in these phases so that your child can develop healthily.

Here’s what you need to know about the oral phase and how best to deal with it.

Oral Phase: What Psychoanalysis And Sigmund Freud Ave To Do With It

The term oral phase was coined by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. It describes the period in a child’s development when they explore the world with their mouth. Once the oral phase is lived out, it is followed by the anal phase and other developmental stages that all children go through.

Sigmund Freud founded the assumption that a child must pass through all developmental stages without interference in order to grow into a healthy personality. According to Freud, these stages are controlled by drives and run completely unconsciously. The individual developmental phases were named by Freud as follows:

  • Oral phase: from birth to 2 years of age.
  • Anal phase: From the 2nd to the 3rd year of life.
  • Phallic or Oedipal phase: From the 3rd to the 5th year of life.
  • Latent phase: From 5 to 11 years of age.
  • Genital or pubertal phase: After the 12th birthday.

The oral phase can be recognized in rudiments already in the womb. The weightlessness in the amniotic sac makes it possible for the embryo to sometimes catch its thumb and suck on it. However, these are not yet controlled movements.

The first relation to the outside world is established after birth through the mouth. Breastfeeding is the newborn’s first experience with the mouth. Its needs for security, closeness and nourishment will be exclusively through the mouth during the first weeks of life.

In the process, the baby will learn that physical closeness and food intake are relaxing and satisfying. As long as it is not yet able to grasp objects specifically, the maternal breast is the object that offers security, protection and nourishment. Intensive educational work is needed here, since many mothers do not breastfeed for a variety of reasons.

Breastfeeding Is More Than Food

Breastfeeding is an integral part when it comes to the oral phase. It involves feeding, physical contact, and the experience of being protected and secure. Of course, there are some reasons why mothers may not want to breastfeed.

Nor is this a question of whether or not to breastfeed. We are taking a look at the needs of the child. As long as the child’s oral phase continues, the baby makes most of its experiences with its mouth.

Initially, exclusively through the maternal breast, which provides nourishment and security. Later, experiences with the baby’s own body are added, as the baby puts its fingers and toes in its mouth.

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He learns that the mother is the most important caregiver in his life, even if the father does his part in caring for the baby. If a bottle is given instead of the breast, the infant has a different experience.

The mother’s skin is warm and full of energy. This experience and contact with the body are omitted when feeding with a bottle. The baby experiences different oral contact than with breastfeeding, which affects his perception and the formation of his confidence.

Very Few Children Go Through The Oral Phase Without Any Disruptions

In contrast to bottle feeding, breastfeeding allows the baby to drink at the breast for as long as he or she needs this form of closeness. Many children still suck peacefully at the breast, even if it has already been emptied.

The sucking reflex has then disappeared and the only thing that matters is the pleasant feeling of closeness. If the baby then falls asleep, it opens its mouth on its own and detaches itself from the mother’s breast in this way.

The oral phase lasts until about the end of the second year of life. This is the point at which most children are no longer breastfed. In today’s society, children are deprived of the breast after one year at the latest because the mother goes back to work.

The fact that this must have an impact on child development should be understandable with regard to the oral phase. The phase cannot be lived through to the end, it is interrupted in the middle. With the corresponding consequences.

Your Baby Now Puts Everything In Its Mouth

If the baby can move its arms in a controlled manner, everything that is tangible is taken in the hand and put into the mouth. This is how the environment is explored. The oral phase provides the baby with countless impressions that are stored in its brain and stimulate personality development.

Until the end of the second year of life, there is enough time to explore the environment with the lips and tongue. However, it is important to note that only through the physical closeness of the mother is the primordial trust in the child touched and anchored.

If the oral phase is blocked at this point, the bond between mother and child cannot develop properly and deeply. This fact will later affect all areas of human life, because life in this case is based on fear.

How long the oral phase lasts cannot be determined concretely. Some children change to the anal phase after 1.5 years, for other children the oral phase lasts beyond the second year of life. Here you should never follow guidelines, but just know that your child will eventually take the next developmental step.

It is always a question of the environment, how your child develops. If the child is allowed to grow up at home until school age, these phases will be timed differently than with daycare and kindergarten children. Therefore, do not expect your child to function according to a development plan. He will go through the individual steps. But at his pace and in his own time.

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Oral Phase And Tooth Growth

If your baby is around six months old, the first teeth may soon appear. Teething is painful for many children. During this time, they drool a lot and find it pleasant to chew on pliable and cold materials.

In addition to exploring the environment, the baby learns to help itself in this situation. It uses the objects specifically to give itself relief by chewing on them.

The oral phase also provides the baby with the opportunity to distinguish things from one another. Around the sixth month, many mothers offer their offspring their first complimentary food. Once the surprise effect of the new food has passed, your baby will very quickly begin to distinguish between tasty and inedible.

In this situation, you should always give him the choice and, if he refuses, try again a few days later. Your baby will develop his own personal taste, which may be different from yours.

If he spits out the offered food, this does not necessarily mean anything. Accept it and give your child the opportunity to decide for himself what goes into his mouth. A few days later, you can try the same food again. If it is not accepted after several tries, you should remove it from the menu.

During this discovery period, your baby must be allowed to try things out. He does not yet know that spilled food has to be wiped up or dirty clothes washed. Table manners are not in order until your child sits at the table during mealtimes. The time before that should be reserved for experimentation during the oral phase.

Oral Phase: Do Not Overdo Cleanliness And Hygiene

As long as the baby can’t turn on its own, you have everything under control. As soon as it starts crawling or crawls around the room on its belly, the apartment not only has to be childproofed.

At this point, at the latest, nothing that fits in the mouth or could be licked must be within reach of your offspring. On the one hand, there is a risk of small parts being swallowed, and on the other hand, cat litter, waste from the trash can or leaves from plants do not belong in the baby’s mouth.

What we take for granted is not yet established in the child’s mind. That’s why you should get down to your baby’s eye level and see and assess the home and its furnishings from his or her perspective.

The oral phase changes in the course of the months to the effect that instead of hands and feet, every little part of the furnishings becomes interesting. Dog and cat food should be cleared off the floor just as shoes with laces have to be stowed away in a cupboard. Washing powder and detergents should be moved to a height that your child can’t reach either, and plants may also need to be moved and given a child-proof place.

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Once the apartment has been rearranged to a height suitable for children, the issue of cleanliness and hygiene comes up. If your child is of crawling age, you won’t be able to avoid him or her using their hands to get around on the floor.

Of course, you can’t mop three times a day to ensure cleanliness. You don’t need to. The baby’s immune system is designed to react to dirt and germs in an appropriate way and to develop defensive bodies.

This is a completely natural process that is anchored in physical development. Make sure that your baby does not get hold of any small parts and clean as normal. Your baby’s body can handle this.

A cleaning obsession or constant sterilization would be counterproductive. In this case, you radiate fear of germs and diseases, which your baby senses and thus learns that it lives in a dangerous world of which it must be afraid.

How To Support Your Child’s Oral Phase

You need a lot of patience for this phase of development. If your child is housed in an institution, he or she will not have as much freedom for the oral phase as his or her development would need. Therefore, take as much time as possible for your child each day.

Let him examine sand and if he tries to put it in his mouth, let him do so. Sand does not harm him. Taste it once and the experience that sand is not edible quickly finds its place in the brain.

Your baby learns only through experience, which involves all the senses. While adults live on the level of thinking, your child can only feel. Thinking structures form later, after the person has had experiences based on perception and sensation.

The oral phase is the first stage of the ability to perceive through the senses. Therefore, let your child try everything that is impossible until he decides to try something else. It is in a learning process that most adults cannot comprehend.

Offer your child things he can bite into without hurting himself. Colorful stuffed balls, rattles with grab rings, plush or squeaky toys should be a size that the baby can hold but not swallow.

Let your little one experiment with food, too. Young children love to eat with their fingers and especially by themselves. A bubble bath afterward will eliminate the disaster, while you have given your child a valuable experience.

The Anal Phase – What Is It?

After about two years, the oral phase is replaced by the so-called anal phase. This developmental stage is about the experience of going to the toilet independently.

During this time, your child gains the experience of controlling his or her own excretions. He can delay defecation and bladder emptying and experiences a kind of power over his own body. This anal phase is completed around the third birthday, although even this figure is only a rough guide.

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The anal phase is also strongly dependent on the external environment. Sensitive children sometimes react defensively to fixed potty times in daycare centers and begin to refuse to go out.

Quite a few children only go to the toilet or potty at home because they feel pressured by group sessions at the facility. In these cases, nothing remains of the pleasurable experience that is actually at stake. Instead, the child experiences not being allowed to have control over his or her body. This blocks the anal phase and problems in adulthood are pre-programmed.

The ability to control excretion can also lead to complications such as urinary retention. If the child withholds urine too long to test his or her abilities, the bladder becomes overstretched and begins to hurt.

In most cases, it then needs a doctor and an ointment to lower the ability to feel. This is because the painful pressure of the bladder makes the child hold back urine even more because he feels that urination will now hurt. A special, cooling ointment has a pain-relieving effect and makes it possible to let go. Alternatively, you can try a warm bathtub in which the child is placed to urinate.

It may happen that your child becomes so interested in his solid excretions that he examines them closely. This is also part of development when it comes to the anal stage.

Since you are used to full diapers and the excretions through babyhood, let your child examine them if they are interested. What feels rather repulsive to you will be scrutinized by your offspring in a completely non-judgmental way. The more freedom you give him in this regard, the faster the anal phase will be over.

Prohibitions, whispering behind the hand, or instructions that you don’t do such things unsettle a toddler. Explain to him that the food he puts in his mouth has to come out of his body again and is processed along the way.

The more normal you are with this situation, the healthier it is for your child. It will not be burdened with shame or taboos that it will otherwise have to struggle with throughout its life.

Conclusion

Developmental steps are pushed by nature and come in individual ways. No one can predict how long the oral and anal phases will last in your child’s life.

Your child needs love, care and understanding, then he will master all developmental steps. In its own way and at its own pace. He still lives in a different world than you do. Therefore, you must always put yourself in his place and see every situation from his perspective. Otherwise you will not be able to understand your baby.

Your baby’s oral and anal phases are also important for you. You will find that some of the things your child does repel you. Take your time and look closely at these situations. They tell you something about your patterns and your blockages. So that you can do better with your child.

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