As a new mum, you might wonder: What are newborn reflexes exactly? And what is their purpose? What do newborn reflexes look like? Is it that instinctive adorable thing that they do when their hand curls around your finger? Or the funny stretch that they like to do when unswaddled? What are newborn reflexes and when and why do they happen?
Let's find out.
What Are Newborn Reflexes? 10 You Must Know About
1. Rooting Reflex
You touch your newborn's cheek and he turns towards the direction he is being touched with his mouth open. This could mean he is hungry and wants to nurse. However, for many new mums instead of recognising what are newborn reflexes, they can mistake this as a positive cue for hunger, when actually you're just stimulating your newborn's reflex action by stroking his cheek.
2. Sucking Reflex
Rooting actually cues the baby to suck. You can trigger your newborn's sucking by gently touching the roof of his mouth with a finger, nipple and even with a bottle.
However, this reflex will only fully develop at about 36 weeks. So if you are a mum with a premature baby and are unsure what are newborn reflexes, you may wonder why your little one has weak sucking abilities. Not to worry — the sucking reflex will develop as your baby catches up with that 36-week mark.
Babies also have a hand-to-mouth reflex that goes with rooting and sucking. They may suck on their fingers or hands. Again this can be confused with hunger, but many babies like to "comfort suck" as well as to self-soothe.
3. Moro Reflex (aka Startle Reflex)
When startled by a sudden movement or loud noise, your newborn will throw his head back, with arms and legs extended and start crying.
After that, he will retract his arms and legs into a hugging position as if to protect himself. New mums can minimise this by swaddling their newborns. Swaddling not only helps prevent babies from waking themselves up, but also helps them to feel more secure.
4. Gag Reflex
The "gag reflex" happens when your newborn suddenly swallows way too much milk. This could happen during a really strong letdown or if you are overproducing breastmilk.
Your newborn's first instinct is to close off his throat, and this, in turn, causes his tongue expel the excess milk out of his mouth.
You might be thinking, "Oh no, is he alright? Did I choke him?" But there's usually no cause for worry. Just hold your baby upright or into a sitting position and rub his back as if you were burping him and he should be alright.
5. Crawling Reflex
During tummy time and when your newborn is on his stomach, he will usually draw his knees up under his tummy in a fetal position. It might look like he is attempting to crawl but in a really cute way.
If you apply some pressure to his feet, you will see him attempting to push forward with the help of your hand. So never leave your baby unattended on the bed or on something high like a changing table. Small as he may be, he can still be pretty mobile even though he hasn’t started to flip or crawl properly yet.
6. Babinski’s Reflex
If you try stroking firmly the soles of your newborn's feet from heel to toe, you will notice his feet respond. His big toe will bend back while other toes fan out. Mums will see this reflex up to about two years of age. This reflex helps to prevent falling when your baby is ready to take his first few steps.
7. Walking (or Step) Reflex
This is also known as the dance reflex because your little one might look like he's trying to moonwalk when you hold them upright, with their feet on a flat surface.
8. Grasp Reflex/Palmar Grasp
Everybody loves this reflex! The grasp reflex is when your baby's hand closes around your finger every time you press or touch the palm of his hand. Of course the same will happen if say, using an object instead of your finger. But why do that when a tiny hand wrapped around your fingers will give you "the feels!"
9. Traction Response
For new mums who are not familiar with, or know what are newborn reflexes, you might see your doctor test this reflex by holding both of your baby’s wrists and lifting him forward into a sitting position.
Incidentally, you might see some of the older generations do this as an exercise to "strengthen your baby's neck muscles." To check traction response, your baby’s head should first be tilted back, when he is first lifted before straightening and then falling forward.
10. Galant Reflex
Your doctor might actually do this test at your baby's regular checkup to see if your baby's spinal nerves are well developed. While holding your baby facing down, your doctor will gently stroke along one side of his back. If all is well, your baby should arch his body and pull his pelvis towards the side he was stroked.
So mums! Out of the 10 listed above, what are the newborn reflexes you've tested? Which ones are your favourite? Do share with us in the comment box below.
Source: Stanford Children's Health
Read also: Why do newborns looks so worried?