7 Reflexes to Look Out for in Your Newborn

These reactions will disappear after they’ve done their job.

Reflexes Baby Laying Down with Arms Up Alexandra Grablewski
Reflexes are involuntary muscle reactions that help your baby adjust to life on the outside—and show he’s developing normally. Rooting and sucking, for example, ensure he gets fed. As his brain matures, reflexes gradually stop happening—and that’s a good thing, says David A. Ansel, M.D., clinical assistant professor of developmental-behavioral pediatrics at Stanford University School of Medicine. “You can’t successfully sit up if your whole body twitches every time you flex your neck.” 

If you test a reflex and don’t get the expected response, that’s okay. Some reactions are harder to prompt. However, if your baby is missing reflexes and isn’t feeding properly, doesn’t move one side of her body, or isn’t making eye contact, tell your pediatrician.

1. Stepping Reflex

Symptoms: Hold your little one under the armpits, support her head, and touch her soles to a flat surface. She will lift one foot and then the other, like she is walking or dancing.

How long it lasts: Disappears after 2 months.

2. Moro (Startle) Reflex

Symptoms: When you clap or make a sudden sound, your baby will extend his arms and legs, toss back his head, and then pull his limbs back in. This shows healthy hearing, vision, and wiring of his entire body, says Edmund F. La Gamma, M.D., chief of newborn medicine at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in Valhalla, New York. 

How long it lasts: Disappears between 2 to 6 months.

3. Sucking Reflex

Symptoms: Touch a nipple, bottle, or clean finger to the roof of your baby’s mouth, and she will begin to suckle.

How long it lasts: Disappears between 2 to 3 months.

4. Rooting Reflex

Symptoms: Stroke his cheek or the corner of his mouth, and he’ll turn his head toward you and open his mouth, “rooting” for a breast or bottle.

How long it lasts: Disappears around 4 months.

5. Tonic Neck Reflex

Symptoms: When her head turns to one side, her arm on that side extends and nearly straightens, and her opposite arm bends at the elbow. This reflex might help her focus on her hand and prepare her for reaching later.

How long it lasts: Disappears between 4 to 5 months.

6. Tongue-Thrust Reflex

Symptoms: Touch a spoon to his tongue and he’ll push it out. This reflex may have evolved to protect from choking. A baby won’t eat solids with this reflex.

How long it lasts: Disappears between 4 to 6 months.

7. Palmar (Grasp) Reflex

Symptoms: Rub your baby’s palm, and she’ll grab hold of your finger. Stroke the side of her palm or the back of her hand, and she’ll open her fingers.

How long it lasts: Disappears between 5 to 6 months.

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