What Is Infant Reflexes?

Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions seen at birth where some will disappear in weeks and some will disappear in months. Some movements are spontaneous and occur as part of the baby’s normal activity. Others are responses to certain actions.

Healthcare providers check reflexes to determine if the brain and nervous system are working well together. Pediatricians will check and look out for periodically during the appropriate time frame visits for your baby.

The following reflexes are normal reflexes seen in newborn babies, and this will make you understand more what is infant reflexes is all about. You do not want to miss it.

Rooting Reflex

This reflex starts when the corner of the baby’s mouth is stroked or touched. The baby will turn his or her head, open his or her mouth, and follow and root in the direction of the stroking. This helps the baby find the breast or bottle to start feeding. At first, your baby will root from side to side turning their head toward the nipple and then away. By three weeks of age, your baby will become much better in turning for position to suck.

During your baby’s visit at the pediatrician, he or she will stroke your baby’s mouth to see if the baby will turn his head and open his mouth. This reflex appears at birth and lasts about 4 months.

Suck Reflex

The rooting reflex helps the baby get ready to suck. When the roof of the baby’s mouth is touched, the baby will start to suck. This reflex doesn’t start until about the 32nd week of pregnancy, and is not fully developed until about 36 weeks. During an ultra performed during your pregnancy, you might have even seen your baby suck their thumb!.

Premature babies may have a weak or immature sucking abilities because of this. Because babies also have a hand-to-mouth reflex that goes with rooting and sucking, they may suck on their fingers or hands. Coordinating the sucking motion with breathing and swallowing is a difficult task for newborns, but it will be managed and mastered well.

While at the pediatrician during a visit, he or she will touch the roof of the baby’s mouth to see if the baby will respond and start sucking.

Moro Reflex

The moro reflex is often called a startle reflex. This is because it usually occurs when a baby is startled by a loud sound or movement. In response to the sound, the baby throws back his or her head, extends out his or her arms and legs, cries, then pulls the arms and legs back in. This responsiveness may vary in degrees from baby to baby.

A baby’s own cry can even startle him or her and trigger this reflex. At the pediatrician’s office, he or she will not test for this. I don’t think you would want your baby’s pediatrician startling or making your baby cry. This reflex appears at birth and lasts until the baby is about 2 months old.

Tonic Neck Reflex

The tonic neck reflex is a cool and fun one to see. When a baby’s head is turned to one side, the arm on that side stretches out and the opposite arm bends up at the elbow.

This is often called the fencing position due to how the baby is positioned. You might see this at the pediatrician’s office during an exam. This reflex appears at birth and lasts until the baby is about 5-7 months old.

Grasp Reflex

Stroking the palm of a baby’s’y hand causes the baby to close his or her fingers in a grasp motion. Do not be surprised of how strong this grasp becomes.

Your baby’s pediatrician will stroke their hand in along the baby’s hand, and you will see how your baby will close their fingers. This grasp reflex, also called palmar grasp, appears at birth and lasts until the baby is about 5-6 months old.

Babinski Reflex

The babinski or plantar reflex occurs when the sole of the foot is stroked, the foot flexes and the toes curl tightly. Your baby’s pediatrician will perform this stroke to see the response of the toes curling in. This reflex appears at birth and lasts until the baby is about 9-12 months.

Stepping Reflex

This reflex is also called the walking or dance reflex, because a baby appears to be taking steps or dancing when held upright with his or her feet touching a solid surface.

The pediatrician will carry and hold them upright making sure their feet is close to the surface, and you will see how the baby will either start to bend both knees in looking like their taking steps, or they will move their bodies and legs looking like their dancing. This reflex appears at birth and lasts about 2 months.

Have you seen a reflex yet?

These reflexes are normal inborn reflexes that you will see throughout your baby’s first weeks into life. Not all infants acquire and lose these reflexes at exactly the same time, but it gives you a general idea of what to expect.

Being part of your baby’s development is important and is always exciting. Seeing and experiencing these infant reflexes are beyond precious which you always want to capture. It is amazing to see how these reflexes are critical, but yet only last for several months. Now you know what is infant reflexes is all about.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this, and please let me know if you have any questions, comments, or concerns.

8 thoughts on “What Is Infant Reflexes?”

  1. This is amazing how well you structure your research and findings on reflexes, i have greatly learned something new from this article. Good job and keep it up

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  2. Wow! I’ve never found an article that encompassed all of the reflexes in one spot. I’m not a parent yet, but can imagine that it might be scary to see some of these without understanding the root causes or normalcy of them. Thank you for an awesome post!

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  3. Thank you so much!! I feel better knowing all of this is normal, especially the fencing reflex. I thought my baby was trying to be a superhero lol
    You have written a lot of great information in the reflexes I am noticing with our new baby…cutest thing ever…maybe because she doesn’t look exactly like me 😂

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  4. This is a really cool and informative article! I am a parent already and its so interesting reading all about this again. I often swaddled my infant to prevent the Moro reflex from waking themselves up, that helped a lot! Thanks for the info!

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