Recently, I had two cousins who gave birth to beautiful babies within 1 week of each other.  This inspired me to write a post on primitive reflexes in newborns to enlighten new parents on their child’s innate reflexes.

Reflexes are involuntary actions in response to a stimulus.  Newborns have reflexes that are present after birth, but gradually disappear as the newborn gets older.  These reflexes are called primitive reflexes and allow the newborn to react in his or her environment before developing the key physical and cognitive abilities needed for them to fully engage.  Below I have listed some important primitive reflexes:

  1. Moro reflex: When the head of an infant is dropped in relation to their trunk, the arms extend and abduct (move away from the body’s core) and then flex (bend at the elbows). This reflex is present at 32 weeks of gestation (in womb) and disappears by 3-6 months of age.  This is a primitive fight or flight response.
  2. Stepping reflex: Holding an infant upright and placing his/her feet on a flat surface will cause the infant to move their feet in a stepping motion. This reflex is present at 32 weeks gestation and disappears by 1-2 months.  This reflex is likely important to assist the infant while learning to walk later in life.
  3. Grasp reflex: When a finger is pressed into to the plantar surface (sole) of the infant’s foot, the toes plantar flex (bend downwards) as if grasping the finger. This same reflex occurs when a finger is placed in the palm of the infant.  The reflex is present at 32 weeks and disappears at 3 months.  This reflex allows the infant to automatically grab an object.
  4. Galant reflex: When the infant is stroked along the side of his/her back bone while being held in the prone position (stomach down), the infant will curve their back toward the side of the stroke. This reflex disappears at 3-9 months.  This reflex assist in the navigation of the birth canal during delivery.
  5. Root reflex: When the infant is rubbed on their cheek he/she will move their mouth toward the stimulus.  This is an automatic response that allows the infant to find food. This should disappear around 3-4 months.

I hope this is informative.  Although these reflexes are interesting, please only allow your pediatrician to test for these reflexes.