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Normal newborn reflexes

Normal newborn reflexes


Most babies born after 36 weeks are able to display all the following responses and reflexes. Babies born prematurely can have immature reflexes, sometimes contributing to them spending time in the Intensive Care Nursery.

The normal reflexes and responses of a newborn baby can include:

Rooting reflex

Sucking and swallowing

Gag reflex

'Startle' or Moro reflex

Crawling reflex

Grasping reflex

Walking and stepping

Tonic neck or 'fencing' reflex

Traction response

Galant reflex

Rooting reflex.

The 'rooting reflex' causes your baby to turn their head towards the direction of being touched on the cheek, often opening their mouth quite wide. You will notice your baby doing this whether they are hungry or not, you may even stimulate this reflex by accidentally brushing your baby's cheek with your hand or with a piece of clothing.

Babies display the rooting reflex frequently when awake and stimulated. If the mother strokes the baby's cheek while they are breastfeeding or drinking a bottle, it can make them turn away and stop feeding. The rooting reflex is very strong for the first 3 to 4 months and can be present up until the child's first birthday.

Newborn rooting reflex Image 10-42 shows a baby displaying the rooting reflex.

Sucking and swallowing.

Yawning, sucking a thumb and swallowing amniotic fluid can first be seen in babies at about 12 to 13 weeks of the pregnancy. The sucking and swallowing reflexes do not fully mature until about 36 weeks of the pregnancy. The baby needs to coordinate the reflexes simultaneously to drink milk. This is known as the 'sucking - swallowing - breathing' sequence.

Sucking can be triggered when a finger, breast, bottle or dummy is placed into the baby's mouth and pressure is applied to their palate (the roof of the baby's mouth). This stimulates the sucking reflex, which can be quite strong and rapid. Sometimes it may be more of a chomping action than sucking.

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