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Children and Reflex Development

What Are Reflexes?

Reflexes are natural physical responses a baby has that helps him or her to survive outside of the womb. Many reflexes which are present at birth will generally subside within a few months as the baby grows and matures. While some reflexes may be more prominent in certain babies, reflexes help pediatricians identify if a baby is growing and maturing as he or she should be.

What Kind of Reflexes Are There?

There are many different reflexes. Some of the most common reflexes that babies have are:

  • Rooting Reflex: The rooting reflex is most evident when an infant's cheek is stroked. The baby responds by turning his or her head in the direction of the touch and opening their mouth for feeding.
  • Gripping Reflex: Babies will grasp anything that is placed in their palm. The strength of this grip is strong, and most babies can support their entire weight in their grip.
  • Toe Curling Reflex: When the inner sole of a baby’s foot is stroked, the infant will respond by curling his or her toes. When the outer sole of a baby’s foot is stroked, the infant will respond by spreading out their toes.
  • Stepping Reflex: When an infant is held upright with his or her feet placed on a surface, he or she will lift their legs as if they are marching or stepping.
  • Sucking Reflex: The sucking reflex is initiated when something touches the roof of an infants mouth. Infants have a strong sucking reflex which helps to ensure they can latch onto a bottle or breast. The sucking reflex is very strong in some infants and they may need to suck on a pacifier for comfort.
  • Startle/Moro Reflex: Infants will respond to sudden sounds or movements by throwing their arms and legs out, and throwing their heads back. Most infants will usually cry when startled and proceed to pull their limbs back into their bodies.
  • Galant Reflex: The galant reflex is shown when an infants middle or lower back is stroked next to the spinal cord. The baby will respond by curving his or her body toward the side which is being stroked.
  • Tonic Neck Reflex: The tonic neck reflex is demonstrated in infants who are placed on their abdomens. Whichever side the child’s head is facing, the limbs on that side will straighten, while the opposite limbs will curl.

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