6 Baby Reflexes to Know
• From the automatic stepping reflex, where infants move their legs as if walking, to the adorable palmar grasp that has your baby holding onto your finger, each reflex serves a purpose in their early months.
• Learn about the moro reflex, a startle response that fades after 2 months, and the tonic neck reflex resembling a fencer's pose, typically disappearing by 5-7 months.
• Understand the rooting and suck reflexes, important for feeding, and understand when these reflexes naturally disappear.
What do you think of when you hear the word “reflex”? You may think of the knee jerk test at the doctor’s office when they hit your knee and it flies up into the air, or maybe you’re even thinking about a simple sneeze! But did you know babies have reflexes that adults and older children don’t have? In fact, baby reflexes are only seen for a very short period of time, some as short as the first 2 months of life.
Some baby reflexes include:
- Automatic stepping reflex
- Moro reflex
- Asymmetrical tonic neck reflex
- Palmar grasp reflex
- Rooting reflex
- Suck reflex
When you notice these reflexes in your baby, you may be concerned that they are not typical. But it’s actually the opposite! Baby’s reflexes are nothing to worry about, because they are completely natural and all serve a purpose. Just like a sneeze, these reflexes are simple reactions. For some infants, you can see these reflexes clearly, and with others you’ll hardly notice them. You might not even notice these reflexes all the time. If you don’t notice any of these reflexes in your baby, you can ask a healthcare provider for more information.
Are you curious about the 6 reflexes you might see? Learn more!
What is the automatic stepping reflex?
You may see the automatic stepping reflex when an infant is held upright and leaned forward. When their feet are on a flat surface, the infant will make stepping motions, like they are walking through the air.
The automatic stepping reflex is typically not seen after 2 months.
What is the moro reflex?
The moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex, is when the baby stretches their arms and legs out and pulls them back in immediately. This reflex is typically seen in response to a sudden movement or loud noise. Although this only lasts a second or two, it can wake the baby up if they are sleeping.
The moro reflex is typically not seen after 2 months old.
What is the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex (ATNR)?
The asymmetrical tonic neck reflex, sometimes referred to as the fencing reflex, is when baby’s arm and head posture resembles a fencer’s stance. When baby is lying on their back with their head turned to one side, the arm on the same side (called the face side) will extend away from the body and the opposite arm will bend at the elbow. Also, the hand of the extended arm will be open, and the hand of the bent arm will be fisted. This reflex is known for being subtle, so don’t be surprised if you don’t notice it. It may even just look like baby is stretching!
The tonic neck reflex is typically not seen after 5-7 months.
What is the palmar grasp reflex?
Many parents are familiar with this reflex, because it’s the adorable way that baby grabs your finger! The palmar grasp reflex occurs when you put something in baby’s hand and their fingers close around the object. Even though this happens naturally, it doesn’t make it any less cute when they wrap their little hand around your finger.
The palmar grasp reflex is typically not seen after 5-6 months old.
What is the rooting reflex?
The rooting reflex is when baby turns their head towards you when you gently stroke their cheek or corner of their mouth. Babies use this reflex to help them find the nipple and start feeding. This can also be a helpful trick to figure out if your baby is hungry. Baby may continue to show the rooting reflex until they have the vision skills and muscle control to find the nipple on their own.
The rooting reflex typically not seen after 4 months old.
What is the suck reflex?
The suck reflex starts before birth and involves baby sucking on their hand while in the womb. This happens around 36 weeks into the pregnancy. At birth, most newborn babies will automatically start sucking when a bottle, nipple, or parent’s finger touches the roof of the baby’s mouth. This reflex helps baby eat.
The suck reflex is typically not seen after 4 months. From that point on, sucking will not be a reflex but a voluntary action.
Some of these reflexes may seem silly, but they can actually help baby during their first few months of life with motor development and other skills! The first time you notice these reflexes, you could be a bit surprised, but know that most babies go through the same thing. Babies all have these reflexes, and each one serves a purpose. If you do have any concerns about your baby’s reflexes, be sure to talk to their healthcare provider.