Understanding Infant Reflexes

Infant reflexes

Infant reflexes are reflex actions that originate for the central nervous system. These appear at birth and gradually disappear as your baby moves through normal development. 

At birth you may notice the following infant reflexes.

o   Oral rooting reflex: This reflex is related to feeding. From birth a baby will turn its head towards anything that strokes its mouth or cheek. This reflex disappears at around 4 months when this movement becomes voluntary.

o   Sucking reflex: This reflex is present at birth in all mammals and is related to the oral rooting reflex and feeding. It causes a baby to suck on anything that touches the roof of its mouth to encourage feeding.

o   Moro reflex: This reflex is present at birth and disappears around 3 or 4 months. Often referred to as the “Startle” reflex, the moro reflex occurs when a baby’s head abruptly changes positions, there is a sudden change in temperature, or the baby is startled by a loud noise. The baby’s head and legs extend, while his or her arms will reach outwards, palms up and thumbs flexed. After the reflex the baby will bring its arms back to the body with elbows flexed, hands in fists. The baby’s body will then relax but this reflex if often followed by a cry.

o   Stepping reflex: From birth to about 6 weeks this reflex will appear when the soles of a baby’s feet touch a flat surface it will step or walk by transferring weight from one foot to another. This same movement appears again between 8-12 months as a voluntary movement as a baby prepares to cruise and walk.

o   Tonic neck reflex: This reflex, sometimes referred to as the fencing posture, appears in babies around 1 month and is present until 4 months. When a baby turns its head to the side, the arm on the same side will straighten and extends away from the body, while the opposite arms bends.

o   Palmar grasp reflex: This reflex appears at birth and lasts until 5 or 6 months when a baby will begin to have more control over their fine motor movements. A baby displays this reflex when an object is placed in its hand or the hand is stroked.  The baby’s fingers will curl around the object in a strong grip that the baby does not yet control.

o   Plantar Reflex: This reflex appears at birth and begins in disappear at around 12 months. When the ball of a baby’s foot is stroked the baby will curls its toes tightly.

o   Babinsky Reflex: Similar to plantar reflex this reflex appears in babies from birth and begins to fade at around 12 months. When a baby’s foot is stroked from the heel to the toes its big toe will flex upwards while its small toes fan outwards.

o   Galant Reflex: This reflex appears at birth and disappears between 4-6 months. When the skin on the side of baby’s back is stroked it will swing towards the side that was touched. 

If you have any concerns regarding your baby’s infant reflexes please discuss these with your pediatrician.