Newborns are amazing creatures with one main instinct as they transition through different phases of life: survival. Your infant reflexes are in place during those first crucial months to help do just that.
Reflexes or reflex action is an involuntary and nearly instantaneous movements made in response to a specific stimulus. A reflex is made possible by neural pathways called reflex arcs, present all over the body, which can act on an impulse even before that impulse reaches the brain. Thus, it’s an automatic response to a stimulus that does not receive or need conscious thought. Examples of adult reflexes include pulling your hand away from a hot substance, size of the pupil changes when light acts as a stimulus or jerking your hand or leg when pinched.
Many of your newborn’s body movements are due to reflexes. Nothing in the world produces the same amount of wonder that you feel when your newborn baby wraps their teeny tiny fingers around your pinky. Just like in adults, some reflex movements occur spontaneously as part of your baby’s normal day to day activity, others occur in response to certain triggers. Keeping an eye on those triggers that can tell a parent and their physician about their health and development. Within the first minutes after birth, even the nurses and doctors assess these reflexes, which is a crucial part. Interpreting an infant’s behaviour for new parents is quite challenging, especially during the early months when they lack verbal communication and depend entirely upon involuntary movements.
To enhance one’s ability to learn infant reflex, we can observe and study them that how they affect the child’s behaviour. Some reflexes persist our entire lives like gag reflex but some of them are those which are only shown in the few months of a baby’s birth. In this article we will discuss those infantile reflexes which is the cause for a lot of stress for some of the parents:
Grasp Infant Reflex
Let’s start by discussing grasp Infant reflex first. Stroking or touching the palm of your newborn baby’s hand will automatically trigger this reflex, which makes the baby clench her fist. In the first few days after birth, your baby’s grasp will be so strong it may seem he can hold his own weight, but that is obviously not the case. They have no control over this response and may let go suddenly. This reflex enables your baby to hold on, giving them some sense of security. The grasp reflex lasts only until the baby is 5 to 6 months old. A similar reflex in the toes lasts until 9 to 12 months. Some people misinterpret this response as a sign of fear which is not the case.
Aside from strength, your baby’s other special talent is their stepping reflex. They can’t support their weight so if you hold them under the arms and let their feet touch a flat surface, they’ll place one foot in front of the other and try to walk or at least mimic an action which will resemble that. This infant reflex will disappear after two months, then show up again toward the end of the first year as they learned behavior of walking.
Extrusion Infant Reflex
While the tongue thrust or extrusion reflex is present, if a baby’s lips are touched her tongue automatically comes out. This reflex generally fades by around 3 or 4 months of age but for some babies it will remain active for longer. Tongue thrust aid a baby to feed butnot solid foods. While this reflex is still active, if solid foods are offered it appears like your baby is pushing the food out of her mouth with her tongue, which is often mistaken as dislike of food. It is a sign that your baby is notready to eat solid foods yet.
Startle or Moro Reflex
When your baby is on her back, moving her hands and feet up in air, and being fussy or crying she is demonstrating the startle or moro reflex. This reflex is an attempt to avoid a fall or to grasp on to something. Babies usually show this behaviour when startled with a loud noise like a sudden movement or a change in position. This reflex, which often fades around 8 weeks of age, is sometimes mistaken as a sign of fear or pain.
To check this response, first position the baby in a seated position and then allows the baby’s head to drop backwards slightly, and then catches the head before it hits the pillow. If a baby’s moro reflex is present, the baby should appear startled and lift its arms upward. When the baby is caught, the baby will bring its arms back to its body.
Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex
A baby shows the asymmetrical tonic neck reflex when they are lying down and the head is turned gently to the side. This causes the baby to take on a fencer position. This means if the head is turned to the left, the right arm flexes and the left arm reaches straight away from the body with the hand slightly opened. If the baby’s head is turned to the right, the baby will assume the opposite position. This reflex lasts until the baby is about 5 to 7 months old.
Babinski or Plantar Reflex
The Babinski reflex, also called the Babinski sign or plantar reflex, is an automatic infant reflex in the foot in response to stimulation. The baby’s toes will fan out and the big toe will move upward. In an adult, the foot and toes will curl inward.
The benefit of newborn reflexes to parents and healthcare providers is that the reflexes give information as to whether a baby’s central nervous system is developing normally or not. It is important to understand how to correctly comprehend these responses for early diagnosis of possible lifelong complications.
Reading this might have given you some insight into your child behaviour without the verbal communication, now you’re ready to have fun tracking your child’s progress. Enjoy the milestones!