Newborn reflexes help a baby survive and set the stage for future motor development. Parents can observe and interact with their baby’s ingrained responses.
A newborn baby has a set of ingrained primitive reflexes that only exist at this point in the infant’s life. These baby reflexes disappear after the first few months of life, but they prepare the child’s body for the motor skills to come.
The Moro Reflex in newborns
The Moro reflex may be one of the most startling to new parents. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, their newborn spreads his legs and arms and pulls them in again tightly. This startle response is often accompanied by a short cry.
The Babinski Reflex in newborns
To experience the Babinkski reflex, simply stroke one finger gently down the sole of the newborn’s foot. The baby will fan his toes outward. This reflex may last up until age two in some children.
There are two different forms of grasping reflexes present in newborn babies. The first, most obvious one is the palmar grasp. A baby exhibits the palmar grasp whenever someone presses the centre of his palm. The baby’s hand will gently curl inward and he’ll grasp the finger or other object tightly within his tiny palm. The plantar reflex is a similar behaviour, but instead of the hand, it’s the foot that curls whenever something touches the sole just beneath the toes in an action that looks like he’s grabbing with his foot.
Sucking and Rooting Reflex
A newborn will naturally root toward one side when he feels something touch that cheek and will attempt to suck when something that could be a nipple touches his lips. This rooting reflex is vital to a baby’s ability to successfully breastfeed.
Stepping or Walking Reflex
When held upright with his feet touching the ground or any flat surface, a newborn will move his legs in a stepping or walking pattern. This isn’t a sign that he’ll be an early walker, but a natural reflex that will disappear around the second or third month of life. Once the baby reaches somewhere around 10 to 15 months, he’ll be able to truly support his weight and start practicing his real walking abilities.
The Archer Pose and Tonic Neck Reflex
One of the cutest of the baby reflexes, the archer pose occurs when the baby is lying on his back, often during sleep. When the infant turns his head to one side, the arm on that side will stretch out to point in that same direction while the other arm will bend, this is called a tonic neck reflex. If a parent or caregiver gently turns the baby’s head to the other side, the arms will switch position, too.
The fascinating reflexes of a newborn are completely involuntary and only last for a short time in the infant’s life. These responses help the baby survive his first few fragile months out of the womb. It’s just a bonus that they also provide some cute and interesting moments for parents to experience as well.