Reflexes: all about rooting, sucking, grasping, etc…

Reflexes: all about rooting, sucking, grasping, etc…
A doctor examining a naked baby's reflexes.
A doctor examining a naked baby’s reflexes.

Babies are born hard-wired for survival thanks to a few key reflexes, the most important being the rooting reflex, which allows them to eat.

Essentially, whenever your baby’s cheek is touched, it causes him to turn his head in that direction and then move his lips and tongue (known as rooting). He’s now in position, ready to breast- or bottlefeed by using two other reflexes, sucking and swallowing. Should he swallow too much milk, he’ll gag, the reflex that stops him from choking.

Another reflex that babies are born with is blinking. Even though it’s not critical to survival, it protects their eyes from bright light and helps keep them moist.

Named after the paediatrician Ernst Moro, the Moro reflex occurs in most babies up to three months. When you abruptly shift your baby’s position (picking him up from the changing mat or putting him in his cot, for example), he may react by throwing back his head and throwing out his arms, while keeping his hands tightly clenched.

And while we often don’t think about grasping objects, crawling, or walking as reflexes, that’s exactly what they are. At birth, a baby can grasp your finger, and months later, when he’s ready, he’ll be able to crawl before taking his first steps. All without you teaching him!

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