Reflexes Your Baby

Reflexes Your Baby

In the first six to nine weeks of life the newborn baby shows a number of reflex actions that disappear with age. These include:

Sucking reflex which makes the baby start sucking immediately a nipple or teat is inserted into her mouth. It is poorly developed in babies who are born prematurely, especially more than eight weeks preterm. This reflex disappears after the first year.

Palmar grasp occurs when an object is placed in the baby's hand and she grips it tightly.

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This initial reflex wanes after two to three months and all objects like a rattle will then usually be dropped from the baby's grasp, until she learns to hold on to it at will.

Moro reflex causes the baby to startle and fling her arms apart. This reflex action can be elicited by making a sudden loud noise near the baby, or holding her arms outstretched and then letting go suddenly. The Moro reflex, which diminishes around three to four months, is used as a guide to the physical and neurological development of the child. Weak, partial or incomplete function of the Moro reflex can indicate that the baby was preterm, or may point to brain damage or disease. If the reflex is still present after the age of six to eight months it could be because the baby was preterm or has brain injury.

Automatic walking occurs when the baby is held in a standing position with her feet on a flat surface. She will move her feet forward one in front of the other, simulating walking. The duration of this reflex varies and may last until around six weeks.

Rooting reflex ensures that the baby opens her mouth to take the nipple when the cheek or lips are touched. She will automatically turn towards the side of the face.

That is touched, so do not confuse her by touching on both sides at once. This reflex fades gradually after the first few months.

Because your baby is largely a bundle of reflexes during the first six weeks you may feel there is nothing you can do to provide her with positive stimulation. Although the cognitive abilities of the very young child are limited, you can start to build up the network of information in the brain and initiate the use of facilities needed for learning.

Learning to focus. Your baby needs something to practise her focusing on and if she lies in a pram without anything to look at but white walls or her sheet she will not have anything to attract her eye. Visual discrimination helps develop some of the skills later needed for reading. You can easily make a mobile that will help your baby track objects which enter her field of vision. Commercial mobiles are not usually suitable – they are designed to attract the buyer, not the baby.

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