Newborn reflexes are the involuntary, sudden reactions to any stimulus, that develop as early during the first month after the birth of your child. She is born with these automatic responses in order to fulfil the basic needs of survival. Proper signs of the newborn reflexes determine the correct working of the baby’s brain and spinal cord. These are extremely important for baby’s future development as some of these newborn reflexes develop into purposeful cognitive or physical behaviour later on.
Reflexes are tested soon after the birth by your health care providers. You can also check your babies reflexes time to time by following these instructions :
1. Rooting Reflex–
Activity – Stroke on the cheek or the outer portion of the lip or the corner of the mouth with hand.
Response – The baby will open her mouth and turn her head and mouth towards the stroke. It generally disappears after 4 months but may last for a year.
Benefit – It helps the baby look for and get closer to the source of food i.e. breast or the nip of bottle.
Newborn reflexes appeared in you baby as early as 9 weeks inside the womb and were fully present at birth. While they are present to fulfil her basic survival needs, many of them serve to develop different skills later.
2. Moro Reflex –
It is otherwise known as the startle reflex.
Activity – If you baby gets a sense of falling orhears loud Noise like shouting, crying, Tv etc .
Response – The baby gets startled by any loud noise, extends her arms and legs, open fingers. Turns head towards the noise. Looks astonished. Then again brings back her limbs . This newborn reflex disappears after 2 months.
Benefit – It helps identify different kinds of sounds, mother calling and other noises.
3. Sucking reflex–
Another survival reflex that was present even before birth and can be observed in ultra sound during pregnancy. This newborn reflex is initiated by the rooting reflex. In fact this action is done in two parts. When you bring the nipple to her mouth, she places her lips around the aureola, and squeezes nipple with her pallet and tongue and then start the milking process by moving her tongue from aureola to the nipple. The whole act can be very rapid.
Activity – Touch theupper palate of the mouth with fingers.
Response – The baby will try to suck the finger instinctively
- It helps to hold the nipple of the breast firmly to drink milk.
- Improves the strength in muscles involved in eating.
- Indicates that your baby is not ready for solid
However, the co-ordination of suck-breath-swallow mechanism is quite complex for your 1 month old. But she will improve in this skill and the reflex will turn into a conscious effort within 2/3 months
4. Tonic Neck or fencing Reflex
Activity – The child is made to turn her head to one side through sound or any stimulus.
Response – The baby turns her head to one side, the arms on turned side stretches out and the other hand bends at elbow joint in a fencing pose. This automatic response will recede at 5 to 7 months of age.
- It helps the child to reach out for some objects.
- Synergic pattern is developed.
- Improvement in tone of neck muscles.
5. Grasp reflex
Activity – Place your finger or some object on your baby’s palm.
Response – The child tries to grasp it immediately with clinching her fist and hold it tight. This involuntary response remains till your baby turns 3 months old.
- It develops the catch and hold skills in the child.
- Strengthens gripping muscles like the ‘lumbricles.’
6. Stepping reflex-
Activity – Place the child upright in your hand, supporting her head and let her feet touch a flat surface.
Response – The child moves her lower limbs in walking position. This reflex lasts for two months and the reappears as her conscious action to walk when she approaches her first birthday
- It develops her walking skills
- Strengthens the muscles involved in walking
Just like developmental milestones, your baby’s reflex should also be monitored. Some reflexes like grasping and sucking are normal in every child. They are developed as early as 36 weeks in gestation. Never apply any hard activity on the child to develop any reflex if not found.
In case of grasping, the child will already present with fisting of fingers. So grasping becomes easier for her. But sucking reflex takes some time in some babies. So you can stroke slightly every 2 hours to develop this reflex in your baby.
A regular paediatric examination everyday should be maintained to monitor the child’s developments.