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  • Writer's pictureCoral Smith

Newborn Reflexes in all their Glory

As new parents one of the most amazing things we do is watch out newborn constantly out of love and admiration and of course safety. If you ever wonder why you little one does certain things I want to shed some light on 5 of the primitive reflexes you baby has already developed.

As you take pictures of your precious baby we discover behaviors such as your newborn grasping your finger with great strength never wanting to let go. This is one of these reflexes! Your baby is born with over 70 reflexes but let's focus on the ones that can tell you about what your baby needs, where they are in their development and even how they protect themselves.


This is an important one as it can tell you a number of things about what you baby needs as this reflex is about survival. Say you stroke your baby's cheek, s/he will then turn towards your touch with an open mouth which means they are looking for a nipple to latch onto to feed, also called "rooting", an early sign of hunger to look for. It is an important feeding cue to pay attention to in order to feed your baby before the rooting turns into crying or fussiness which are late signs of hunger which can sometimes make it more difficult to have a peaceful and full nursing session.


This reflex actually develops between 28-32 weeks gestation and usually subsides around 3-6 months of age. It is a response to a sudden loss of support and usually shows itself when you begin to lower baby into their bassinet or crib or when baby is sleeping and has a sudden jolt as if they were falling (hence the amazing and necessary swaddle usually taught at birth and perfected over some time with the help of a good doula) which wakes them up moments after putting them down sleepy time.


This is one of the more puzzling reflexes with no clear biological explanation (but oh so cute to capture on video) At times when you hold your baby upright with their tiny feet touching a firm surface, baby will lift their feet one after the other as to simulate walking. Sometimes this can be used a way to interact with your baby, distract them from a grumpy mood and of course watch and smile.


During tummy time or when baby is placed face down you will notice that baby will turn their head to the side to allow them to breathe. Even if a blanket were to fall on baby's head they would twist their head and make arm movements to attempt to push it away-which of course could be a lifesaver.


This is one of the least discussed reflexes, it is one done at an exam shortly after birth and future "well baby" visits to rule out neurological problems confirming that the reflexes are symmetrical and that they fade at the appropriate time relative to the baby's age confirming that baby is doing well and their body is developing as it should.

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