If you are keen enough in observing your baby, you can easily take notice of his several unique reflexes. Reflexes are spontaneous movements produced by infants upon specific stimulation. Some of these movements are spur-of-the-moment reactions occurring as part of the baby’s usual activity. The presence of these reflexes in infants demonstrate normal brain, brainstem, and spinal cord functioning. These reflexes, however, occur only in specific periods of development of your baby and then disappear as the baby matures. Primitive normal reflexes of the baby include:
This is also known as the “startle” reflex, that causes an infant to extend his arms to the sides and quickly withdraw them back toward the middle of the body, whenever he is stimulated by a loud noise, sudden movement, bright light and other startling stimulus. Even the baby’s own cry can elicit this reflex. Moro reflex is present at birth and disappears at 4-6 months.
This reflex causes the baby to tightly close his hands when you stroke the palm of the baby’s hand by an object or a finger. The grasp reflex is much stronger in premature infants. It appears at birth and normally disappears at 4-6months.
When the corner of the mouth of the baby is stroked or touched, the baby normally turns to that side, opens his mouth, and tries to “root” in to whatever it is that cause the stimulation. This reflex is essential for survival because it helps the baby locate the breast or bottle nipple to start feeding. This is present soon after birth and disappears at 4-6 months.
Like the rooting reflex, the suck reflex is also vital for survival. Babies spontaneously begin sucking once the roof of their mouth is touched.
Also called the “walking or dance” reflex, this is elicited by holding the baby upright with his feet touching a solid surface and the baby appears to take steps. The baby also steps up when the dorsum of the foot is stimulated. This disappears at 4-6 months.
TONIC NECK REFLEX
Notice that when the baby’s head is turned to one side, his arm on that side extends and the opposite arm flexes at the elbow. The baby assumes a fencing posture, hence this reflex is also known as the “fencing” reflex
TRUNK INCURVATION REFLEX
This is manifested by withdrawal of the baby from stroking along the ventral surface of his body. Presence of trunk incurvation denotes intact spinal cord functioning. This is also present at birth and disappears at 6-9 months.
Babinski reflex is normally found at birth up to about 2 years of age. This is demonstrated by upward extension of the big toe and simultaneous fanning of the other toes when the sole of the foot is firmly stroked. If present in adults and children above 2 years old, brain or spinal cord lesions are highly suspected.
In addition, there is one reflex that is not present at birth and not exclusively found in babies. It is the Parachute reflex, which emerges only at the age of 6-8 months and never disappears. This reflex causes the baby to quickly extend his arms at the same time when he is subjected to a fall simulation.
It is amazing to think that nature has provided instinctive responses to our little ones for us parents to understand and appreciate. Learning about these things makes us less apprehensive and more dynamic in our day to day interaction with our baby.