Newborn Reflexes

Topic Overview

Newborn reflexes are involuntary movements that babies make when a part of their body is stimulated. The main newborn reflexes include:

  • Sucking reflex. A newborn sucks when a nipple or finger is placed in his or her mouth.
  • Rooting reflex. When the side of a baby's cheek is touched, the head turns and his or her mouth "reaches" toward it.
  • Traction response. When a newborn is pulled by the arms from a lying to a sitting position, the head lags at first. The baby then flexes, lifting the head to the midline of the rest of the body before it falls forward.
  • Palmar grasp. A newborn grasps a finger that is placed on his or her palm.
  • Placing. A newborn flexes the knee and brings the foot up when the sole of his or her foot is rubbed.
  • Startle (Moro) reflex. A startled newborn throws out his or her arms and spreads the fingers.
  • Galant response. A newborn stroked on one side of the spinal column from the neck down to the bottom will flip his or her bottom to the same side (when held on the belly so the back is facing up).
  • Tonic neck reflex. When you turn a newborn's head to one side, the corresponding arm and leg extend. The opposite arm and leg flex. This is sometimes called the "fencing position."

Newborn reflexes fade between 2 months and 1 year of age as the brain matures.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Susan C. Kim, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Last Revised January 10, 2013

Last Revised: January 10, 2013

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