Monday, May 18, 2009

Babies' Development: Newborn Reflexes

In response to last week's poll, I'm going to start posting regularly on various aspects of babies' and children's development. I'm sure many of you are familiar with some of this information but if you're like me, I find this stuff fascinating and can't get enough of it. Hopefully, you'll enjoy it too.

Today's topic is reflexes. Babies are born with several innate reflexes and mysteriously disappear after the first few months of life. For some, their function is clear; they usually help the baby survive in some way. Others, however, are a bit of a mystery to scientists as to why they exist.

6 Fascinating Things Newborns Can Do {that you can't}


Some of these are very obvious, but I was surprised at the few that you wouldn't necessarily notice unless you knew what to look for. Here are some of the most common newborn reflexes:

Moro reflex: When startled or moved position abruptly (as if falling), babies will instinctively extend their arms, legs, and neck as if grasping for something to hold onto.

Stepping reflex: This one is kind of mysterious. If you hold a newborn upright under the arms, supporting his/her head and neck, he/she will begin stepping as if walking. The odd thing is that this reflex disappears by about 2 months of age and doesn't return until the baby gets ready to walk several months later.

Rooting reflex: This one is obvious to most moms right away. When you stroke a baby's cheek, he/she will turn his/her head in that direction. This, of course, is the baby's way of looking for a nipple in anticipation of being fed.

Babinski reflex: This one is a bit of a mystery too. When a baby's foot is stroked, the toes fan out and the foot turns slightly inward. It is not clear why this reflex exists.

Palmar reflex: When an object or finger is placed in baby's hand, he/she will grasp onto it. Usually the grip will get stronger if you try to pull the object away. Who knew this was a reflex! I just thought it was cute.

Gallant (swimmers) reflex: This is another one I would have never thought to look for. When holding a baby facing down across your arm (back facing you), if you stroke alongside his/her spine the back will curve/squirm to the side you stroke. It looks almost as if the baby is swimming (hence the name).


The video below shows many of these reflexes in action. Babies are amazing, aren't they?


More newborn care resources:

Heading Home with Your Newborn

Heading Home with Your Newborn




Baby Owners Manual

Baby Owner's Manual

Other posts you might enjoy:

How Breaking the Attachment Parenting "Rules" Taught Me One of the Best Lessons

Infant Babbling: It's Not Just Baby Talk



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