The uncontrolled movements made by a newborn baby when a part of her body is stimulated are known as newborn reflexes. When a baby comes to this world, she becomes very busy to learn survival techniques. These newborn reflexes are automatic responses to the stimuli. The nature of such reflexes is that the baby does not have to think about what to do, she does it automatically.
The main importance of knowing newborn’s reflexes is that they tell the parents about the development of the central nervous system of the baby. Some of the newborn reflexes disappear by the 2nd month and some stay until the 4th month. When some of the newborn reflexes remain even after the 4th or 6th month, then a doctor should be concerned as it is a sign of a neurological problem.
Types of newborn reflexes
Some of the newborn reflexes are as follows:
It prompts a baby to automatically turn her head towards the nipple when her mouth or her cheek is stroked. The main utility of this reflex is for the baby is to find the nipple during feeding time. This disappears in about 4 months.
This is one type of reflex that is present in the newborn even before birth. On a prenatal ultrasound, it can be seen that the baby is sucking her thumb. With time, the sucking gets coordinated with swallowing and breathing. This type of reflex helps the newborn in coordinating with swallowing and breathing and in turn helps is feeding and gaining weight.
When you hold a newborn and then place her feet on the ground, she starts to take steps. Newborns cannot support their weight but they will put one foot before the other so as to show that they are walking. The utility of this reflex is to make the baby walk and it disappears in around 2 months as a newborn reflex.
This type of reflex occurs when the newborn baby’s head suddenly falls or shifts from one position to another. This might also occur due to some loud noise. The reaction the baby gives usually is throwing out her arms and legs, extending her neck and then bringing her arms together as she starts crying. This usually disappears within 6 months.
Palmer and plantar grasps
When you stroke the finger of your newborn baby, she grabs the finger quickly and tightly. This is called the palmer grasp. Similarly, when you stroke the foot of your newborn baby, her fingers curl. This is known as plantar grasp. For a newborn, it might look like when she is holding on to the finger tightly, it is easy to pick her up that way but it is only a reflex. She can let go at anytime. The palmer grasp disappears within 5 to 6 months and the plantar grasp disappears by 9 to 12 months.
This is the reflex when your newborn closes her eyes as soon as some object comes near her eyes. This is very important in assessing her visual attentiveness.
What are the reasons for these newborn reflexes?
Newborn babies are very smart from the day they are born. There are many reasons behind the involuntary response to the triggers caused to them. Some of them are as follows:
• Startle reflex is present to help the newborn baby protect herself from harm.
• Root reflex in the newborn baby helps her to find food.
• Sucking reflex helps your newborn baby to eat her food.
• Walking reflex helps the newborn to walk several months from then.
• Palmer grasp reflex occurs in newborn babies to prepare them mentally for voluntary grasping later.
• Blink reflex is very important in assessing the visual attentiveness in the newborn baby.
When do the newborn's reflexes disappear?
The newborn reflexes of different types have different times when they do disappear. Some of them are as follows:
• Rooting reflex disappears in about 4 months of the newborn baby.
• Sucking reflex never disappears but it becomes more of a voluntary reflex that an involuntary one in the newborn baby.
• Stepping reflex disappears within 2 months of the newborn baby.
• Startle reflex disappears within 6 months of the newborn baby.
• Palmer grasp disappears within 5 or 6 months and the plantar grasp disappears by 9 to 12 months of the newborn baby.