Baby reflexes

Most of your baby’s early movements are random and she is not able to control them, but she was born with several reflexes, which will decrease over the first few months of her life as she gets more conscious control over her movements.

The reflexes are:

  • Moro Reflex. Also known as the startle reflex, it occurs when you fail to support or hold the neck and head. The arms of your baby will thrust outward and then seem to embrace themselves as her fingers curl. This reflex disappears at about 2 months of age.
  • Palmar Grasp. When you touch the palm of your baby’s hand, the fingers will curl around and cling to your finger or an object. This reflex disappears at about 6 months.
  • Plantar Grasp. Also known as the Babinski reflex, this reflex occurs when you stroke the sole of your baby’s foot. Her toes will spread open and the foot will turn slightly inward. By the end of the first year this reflex is usually gone.
  • Sucking. Hard to believe that this is a reflex, but it is. This ensures that your baby will suckle on a breast or bottle and occurs when something is placed in her mouth. It is slowly replaced by voluntary sucking at around 2 months of age.
  • Rooting Reflex. When you stroke your baby’s cheek she will turn towards you, usually looking for food. This is very useful when learning to breastfeed your baby. This reflex is gone by about 4 months.
  • Stepping Reflex. If you hold your baby and place her feet on a flat surface she will ‘walk’ by placing one foot in front of the other. Nice trick but it isn’t really walking (so don’t relax your hold!) and will disappear by about 4 months of age.
  • Tonic Neck Reflex. Also called the fencing reflex, because of the position your baby assumes. If you lay your baby on her back and her head turns to one side she will extend her arm and leg on that side while the opposite arm and leg bend, assuming a ‘fencing’ position. This reflex will disappear by the 4th month.
  • Swimming. If you put your baby under water, she will move her arms and legs while holding her breath. This reflex disappears at about 6 months and, for obvious reasons, it’s not recommended that you test this reflex.

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This article was written by Ella Walsh for Kidspot – New Zealand’s parenting resource for newborns and baby.

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