Rooting Reflex In Babies: Why It Is So Important And How To Test For It

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Rooting reflex in babies is a crucial reflex which helps your baby find the breast or bottle to start feeding. Find out how to test for it here...

Babies are born with a number of reflexes or involuntary movements. One such reflex is the rooting reflex in babies, which develops in the womb.

The rooting reflex usually starts to develop at around 28 to 30 weeks of gestation. Which is why, babies who are born very prematurely (before 28 weeks) may not yet have their rooting reflex. 

What is rooting reflex in babies

The rooting reflex in babies kicks in when the cheek or corner of your baby's mouth is stroked or touched. The baby will turn his or her head and open his or her mouth to follow and "root" in the direction of the stroking.

rooting reflex in babies

The rooting reflex helps your baby find the breast or bottle to start feeding. This reflex usually lasts about 4 months.

Here is a video which demonstrates what rooting reflex in babies looks like:

Your baby will, at first, root his or her head from side to side trying to find the nipple. By three to four weeks, your baby will simply turn the head and position the mouth to feed.

The rooting reflex can be a great help with latching on your newborn baby. When you're ready to breastfeed, stroke your little one's cheek or lip with your fingers or your nipple. When he or she turns towards you and opens the mouth, latch him or her onto your breast.

How is the rooting reflex in babies different from the sucking reflex?

Both the rooting reflex and sucking reflex are linked, and are important for your baby to feed. 

rooting reflex in babies

The rooting reflex happens first, allowing your baby to move towards the stimulus and find your (breast or bottle) nipple.

The sucking reflex on the other hand, is triggered when the roof of a newborn baby's mouth is touched with your finger, nipple or even with a bottle nipple. When this area is stimulated, your baby will begin to “suck” or drink.

If you’re concerned about your little one’s reflexes or notice that he or she isn't latching, rooting, or sucking well, do consult your paediatrician or a lactation consultant. 

Retained rooting reflex

Rooting reflex in babies usually disappears after about 4 months. In some cases, it might last longer. However, if it does not disappear, it is known as ‘retained’ rooting reflex.

A retained neonatal reflex is usually a sign of developmental delay. If the reflexes continue into toddlerhood or beyond they can actually start to cause problems.

For example, if the rooting reflex is retained, there may be hypersensitivity around the lips and mouth. The tongue may remain too far forward, resulting in speech and articulation problems, drooling, and difficulty in swallowing and chewing. The child may be a fussy eater or thumb sucker.

Social or learning problems associated with retained rooting reflex are:

  • Difficulty with solid foods
  • Messy eaters and dribbling
  • Poor articulation
  • Poor manual dexterity 

Also READ: 10 newborn reflexes every new mum needs to know about

(Source: Stanford Children's Health, Healthline)

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Written by

Jaya

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