How to Rate Your Newborn's Reflexes - dummies

By Mathew Miller, Sharon Perkins

Newborns are active from the minute they’re born. As a new dad, you may want to rate these reflexes. Your baby will yawn, grimace, and even seem to smile a little. (Yes, the smiles are really caused by gas at this stage, just like your mother says.) Babies also have certain reflex actions that are normal at birth.

Your medical practitioner will assess the baby to make sure these reflexes are present. Lack of normal reflexes can indicate a problem that you need to investigate.

Here are the normal reflexes newborns exhibit:

  • Babinski reflex: When the bottom of baby’s foot is stroked, her big toe rises, and the other toes fan out. The Babinski reflex lasts for around two years.

  • Grasp reflex: If the baby’s palm is stroked, she closes her fingers, a reflex that lasts several months.

  • The Moro, or startle, reflex: Your baby tremors slightly, throws back her head, and flails her arms and legs away from her side in response to a sudden movement or a loud noise. The Moro reflex lasts five or six months before disappearing.

  • Rooting reflex: Stroking the corner of the baby’s mouth makes her turn toward the touch; this helps her find the breast or bottle for feeding.

  • Step reflex: When her foot touches a solid surface, she appears to step, lifting one foot and then the other. This doesn’t mean she’s an athletic prodigy or even that she’ll walk early, however.

  • Sucking reflex: When an object touches the roof of the baby’s mouth, she begins to suck. This reflex doesn’t develop until around 32 weeks of pregnancy and isn’t fully developed until 36 weeks, which is why preemies often can’t take a bottle well or breast-feed.

  • Tonic neck reflex (TNR): If the baby’s head turns to the side, her arm on that side stretches out, and the opposite arm bends at the elbow, making her look like she’s fencing. The TNR lasts six to seven months.