5 Newborn Reflexes – Mental and Muscle Reflexes

When we say newborn reflexes, the newborn is equipped with reflex instincts. By observing these reflex actions, one can determine its mental and muscles maturity levels which are very valuable information. Let's observe some of the interesting and curious responses of newborn reflexes!

Newborn Reflexes Include:

Random reflexes

Newborn Reflexes

If the newborn’s palms are slightly stimulated, the fingers of the stimulated hand will naturally clench together at once. This is known as compression reflex. If the clenched fist is being tugged at, the newborn will clench even more tightly and wouldn't let go. Its soles are more sensitive than its fingers. When similarly stimulated, all toes will clench tightly.

These reflexes are developed from the time when humans are still ape-like. Remnants of the bygone evolution are still observable today: compared to the pick-things-up action, the baby's desire to hold on to its mother is more closely related to the fingers and toes clenching reflexes. These reflexes will disappear completely in two to three months after birth.

Walking reflex

Even though the newborn will only learn to walk when it's about one year old, it's born with the walking reflex. On flat ground, it'll try to support its upper body with both hands on the ground, hoist its upper body upright, tip forward a little and look as if it's trying to lift a foot to take a step. When the baby's toe or shins touch the edge of a table, it'll have a reaction that resembles a ladder-climbing motion and lifts its leg. When the baby is feeling uneasy when its body is suspended in mid-air, its instinct is to make a stepping action on an object when its feet touch it. These responses are known as walking reflex or looking for a seat reflex.

Rooting reflex

Also known as sucking reflex, all the mother needs to do is gently stroke somewhere near the newborn's mouth or lips. Its head will naturally turn in the direction of stimulus and will use its lips and mouth to get whatever food is out there. The newborn will insert a finger into its mouth and make a hard sucking action as if sucking on milk. Just like when the nipple is placed on the side of its mouth, it'll turn in the direction of the nipple, lift its chin and move its mouth. The mouth's sucking reflex is known as rooting reflex. When it starts sucking once food is placed into its mouth that is known as sucking reflex. When the newborn is sucking its mother's milk or other types of milk, the swallowing action is known as swallowing reflex.

Embrace reflex

If the newborn is suddenly touched, lifted or put down, its hands will be outstretched as if wanting to be embraced. Sometimes it may also cry. The newborn's hands and arms reflexes can be observed from the embrace reflex.

Within three or four months after birth, the embrace reflex can be observed in newborns. However, if this reflex goes on for an extended period of time, the mother has to be aware of any brain abnormalities.

Trunk bending reflex

This reflex is when the body aligns with the positions of head and neck and move to one side. When the newborn's head is moved to one side, its hands and legs nearer to its face will immediately straighten, while its limbs on the other side will bend. When the mother is giving the newborn a bathe or putting on its clothes, the trunk bending reflex is often seen.

With one hand lifting the baby and using the finger of the other hand to trace a parallel line across the newborn's spine, the side of its body which got stimulated will bend like a bow. The leg on that side of the body will also bend.

The trunk bending reflex disappears after two months. If this reflex persists for a longer time, the mother may have to be wary of spinal anomalies leading to cerebral palsy (permanent movement disorders that appear in early childhood).

That’s it for newborn reflexes that you need to know.


Editor in Babiology, mother of two, highly passionate about sharing the pregnancy care and post delivery care learning with the readers.

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