Your Newborn's Reflexes

While babies look helpless and delicate, all healthy babies are born with extremely sophisticated reflexes that protect them from harm and help promote their survival. Reflexes are defined as automatic responses to an outside stimulus. Here are some of those amazing reflexes.

Rooting Reflex
This is probably the best known of the reflexes. If you touch your newborn's cheek lightly with your finger or other yielding object, the baby will orient its head toward the touch, open its mouth and attempt to suck. This reflex is also called the 'search reflex.' The baby turns its head in hopes of attaining milk to drink.

Moro Reflex
When your baby is startled by a loud noise, rough handling or loss of support, she will exhibit the 'startle reflex.' She will respond by flinging her arms out and then quickly drawing them back to her chest. This is done in the hopes of grabbing onto something and preventing a fall. She may also cry after this reflex in order to get your attention should she be in danger.

Hand Gripping
This is otherwise known as the 'Darwinian reflex.' If you stroke the palm of a baby's hand, his little hands will close around your fingers. You can literally lift your baby from his resting position and he should be able to hold up his weight. This is to ensure that your baby can grasp on to you and not fall.

Babinski's Reflex
Stroke the sole of your baby's foot from heel to toes. Your baby will spread out her toes and turn the foot inwards as if grasping. This is to prevent her from falling from her mother. It is thought that little baboons running around the forest top attached to their mother were apt at using this reflex as feet and toes in particular are important for tree climbing. This is also referred to as the "plantar reflex".

Withdrawal Reflex
A very handy reflex: when your baby feels a prick of pain, he will withdraw the hurt limb and extend another one in an effort to push away the offending party.

Tonic Head Reflex
This strange reflex isn't found to have any survival benefits. When you lay your baby down, her head will turn to one direction. One arm and leg will extend in the direction of her turned face, while the other arm and leg remain flexed.

Diving Reflex
Babies under six months of age are excellent swimmers due to their diving reflexes. Just like when an adult's air passage blocks during swallowing, a baby can block their throat so they don't swallow water. This is why you often see babies swimming with their mouths open. They'll also move their arms and legs, making these little tykes perfect candidates for swimming classes. Remember, don't try this reflex at home for obvious safety concerns.

Crawling Position
Place your baby on his stomach; you will notice that he automatically takes on the crawling position while laying down.

Stepping Reflex
Hold your newborn gently around the ribcage underneath the armpits and "stand" her up. You'll notice that she will make "stepping" movements with her feet. This is in preparation of learning to walk.

These fantastic reflexes are just the start of all the amazing developments your baby will make over the next year.

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