What are reflexes and why is it important for parents to know it? Reflexes of a baby help in identifying normal brain and nerve activity – while some reflexes take place only in specific periods of development. They are movements or actions that are involuntary. They may be spontaneous while others are responses due to action or stimulation of some kind.
Following are the reflexes seen in newborn babies
- Root reflex
When the corner of the baby’s mouth is stroked or touched, the baby will turn its head and open its mouth to follow and “root” in the direction of the stroking. This reflex assists the baby locate the mother’s breast for milk or bottle to begin feeding. The root reflex assists the baby get ready for the suckling – to drink mother’s milk. When the top of the baby’s mouth is touched, the baby will automatically begin to suck for milk. However, this reflex starts at about 32nd weeks of pregnancy and is not fully developed until about 36 weeks.
- Moro or Startle reflex
This reflex lasts approximately five or six months. When a baby is startled with a loud sound or noise, it triggers the Moro or Startle reflex. The baby throws back its head, then extends its arms and legs, cries, followed by pulling the arms and legs back in.
- Tonic neck reflex
This is also known as the “Fencing position”. Here the baby’s turns its head to one side, with its arm on the same side stretches out. The opposite arm bends up at the elbow. This is often called the “fencing” position.
- Grasp reflex
When you stroke a baby’s palm, you will notice it causes the baby’s hand to close and grasp your fingers.
- Babinski reflex
When you stroke a baby’s foot, you will notice the baby’s big toe bends backwards toward the top of its foot and the other toes spread out. This reflex lasts till approximately 2 years of baby’s age.
- Step reflex
When you hold a baby upright or in a standing position, touching its feet to the ground – you will notice the baby appears to take steps to walk. This reflex is also known as the dancing reflex.