Your Amazing Newborn: Reflexes

Your Amazing Newborn: Reflexes

Newborns are amazing! They are born with special reflexes that are unique to the first few months of life.


Have fun watching your baby for these amazing reflexes!


Rooting reflex


Try stroking your finger along baby’s cheek. Your baby will turn his head toward your finger.  This reflex helps your baby to locate the nipple while breastfeeding. You will see it at birth but this reflex will fade by the time he is about 4 months.


Sucking reflex

Have you noticed that as soon as something enters baby’s mouth, he begins to suck on it? This is called the sucking reflex. Your baby is programmed to suck on anything that touches the palate (top) of the mouth.


Walking or stepping reflex


Hold your baby upright, your hands encircling his chest with his feet touching a firm surface. Your baby will begin to make stepping motions. This reflex is present at birth but will disappear by the time he is about 6 weeks old.


Grasp reflex

This adorable reflex is responsible for your infant holding your finger. When something is placed on his palm, your newborn will grasp it. This reflex is present from birth until about 5 months of age.


Startle reflex


When baby experiences a sudden noise or movement, his startle is a set of motions. His legs straighten, his head moves backward, and his arms jerk up and outward. Then his arms will come together while he makes a fist. The startle reflex is most pronounced in babies at about 1 month old and fades gradually until about 3 months.

Plantar reflex (Babinski reflex)


Stroke the sole of your baby’s foot. In response, your baby’s toes will spread apart and the big toe will stretch upwards. You can expect to see this reflex for the entire first year.



Tonic neck reflex


When your baby is about 1 month old, observe what happens when he turns his head to one side. When the head is turned to the right, his right arm will straighten and his left arm will bend. When he turns to the left, he straightens his left arm and bends his right. This motion has been referred to as “fencing” and fades by about 6 months.


There is one more reflex that babies are born with but we do NOT recommend you try to test it!


Swimming reflex


Babies are born with a swimming reflex. If placed face down in water, they will begin to paddle and kick in a swimming motion. This reflex lasts until your baby is about 5 months.


Newborns are amazing. How many of these reflexes have you observed?

** More great reading: 14 Fascinating Facts about Newborns.


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About the authors:

Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.

Download their app NuuNest – Newborn Nurse Answers and Baby Tracking for expert guidance through the first crucial weeks after childbirth.

(Foot photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons. Baby photo courtesy of Flickr:  Kel McDonald)


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