7 Amazing Newborn Reflexes


Although you may look at your brand new baby and believe they are completely helpless beings, they actually have a lot going on inside those little bodies and brains. Did you know that all healthy newborn babies come equipped with some hardwired, natural, instinctive reflexes to help ensure their safety and survival? Learning about each one will help you understand your new baby even more, for a closer, tighter bond.

  1. The Root Reflex

You’ll likely be seeing this one quite a bit! The root reflex is designed to help your baby find and latch onto their source of food. You can test it out by touching your baby’s cheek with your finger and watching them turn toward you with their mouth wide open - but your baby wants to eat pretty much constantly at first so you’ll be able to notice this reflex very frequently.

2. The Sucking Reflex

Locating the food source is only half the battle: now your baby has to be able to suck on the nipple to get milk. The sucking reflex starts to develop around 32 weeks of pregnancy, which is why you may see most early preemies being fed through a tube instead of a bottle. The sucking reflex is triggered by touching the roof of your baby’s mouth - which should happen when latching onto the breast.

3. The Grasp Reflex

Now this is the fun one that pretty much everyone knows about - the one where if you place your finger on your baby’s palm, they’ll grab it and hang on tight! This grasp reflex actually lasts a while beyond the newborn stage and doesn’t go away until up to 6 months.

4. The Babinski Reflex

This is another infant reflex that sticks around for a while. You can test it out by giving the bottom of their foot a firm rub - you’ll see their big toe stretch back and their other toes spread out! This reflex is present for a whole two years.

5. The Stepping Reflex

The stepping reflex is another fairly well-known one that a lot of parents have tested out. When you hold your baby up vertically, with their feet touching a surface - perhaps your lap, the bed, or a table - they will appear to walk as if they are trying to climb stairs. Fun!

6. The Tonic Neck Reflex

This one is also commonly known as the “fencing position reflex”. When your baby is lying on their back and turns their head to the side, they straighten out their arm at that side while bending the opposite side arm upwards. For about 6 or 7 months of your baby’s life, you won’t be able to unsee it now that you know!

7. The Moro Reflex

The Moro reflex is also known as the startle reflex - and it can definitely startle you as a parent if you aren’t aware that it’s normal. When your baby sees or hears something suddenly, they may throw out their arms and legs indicating that they have been startled. They may also arch their back and briefly cry, before cranking their limbs back in toward their body.

These newborn reflexes will seem normal to you when you observe them - now that you know all about them! This knowledge will help you get to know and communicate with your baby on a much deeper level, not just in the newborn stage but all the way through toddlerhood.