Nature has set this up perfectly: when babies are born, they are already equipped with a series of congenital reflexes that ensure survival. Some reflexes disappear after a few months, others are preserved for a lifetime to protect us from dangers. What kind of early reflexes are there and why they are so important to our development can be found in this article?
Early reflexes are involuntary reactions of the baby, which occur automatically and are triggered by a certain stimulus. They are congenital, not controllable, and run with every human being according to the same pattern. Early reflexes disappear as a rule after a few months.
With increasing brain maturity they are replaced by movement patterns, which can be consciously controlled by the infant. Thus the integration of early childhood reflexes is the prerequisite for the further development of the child. Other reflexes, such as coughing, blinking, or breaking the arms when falling, are designed to protect the body and remain intact throughout life.
Control of early childhood reflexes
In the initial examination of the baby, the pediatrician checks certain reflexes. Using these tests, the doctor can control the age-old development of the child. However, if the early reflexes disappear after a few months, this may indicate a possible developmental disorder. With targeted physiotherapy, the disorder can be countered in many cases.
If for example, the Moro reflex (brachial reflex or bracing reflex) has not been broken down in the early childhood and continues to exist, this can lead to problems in the course of child development. Signs can include learning and behavioral disorders as well as motor development disorders.
The most critical reflexes in the baby: An overview
- Search reflex: Babies are provided with a search reflex from birth, which helps them to find the breast of the mother or the milk bottle. In the first 30 minutes after birth, this reflex is particularly pronounced. This is why it is recommended to baby mothers to apply their baby to the breast. A soft stroking of the cheek is enough to make the baby turn his head to the food source, open his mouth and start sucking. After a few months, this reflex disappears completely.
- Suction and swallowing reflex: The suction reflex is one of the most important congenital reflexes ever since it ensures the survival of the newborn. As soon as the palate of the baby is touched, it begins to suck vigorously and swallows the food down. After about six months the baby can control the suction movements independently.
- Grip reflex: When the grasp reflex, the baby closes his fingers as soon as it is touched on the palm. With the help of this reflex, the baby keeps practicing the access. After about five months, this reflex is replaced by targeted grasping. The gripping reflex can also be observed on the feet. If the soles of the feet are touched, the toes of the baby bend.
- Respiratory protection: The infant’s airways close automatically when the mouth and nose come into contact with water. This protective reflex does not allow water to enter the lungs. This reflex disappears after only a few months.
- Moro-Reflex: This reflex is a staple reflex designed to protect the baby from falling. The pediatrician tests this reflex to check the infant’s balance. In young parents the Moro-Reflex often hunts fear: in response to a terrible situation, the baby suddenly stretches his arms and legs and throws his head backward. This violent body reaction can be observed in infants especially during sleep. By the twitching of the arms and legs, the babies often wake up. For a better sleep helps the so-called spitting: The babies are tightly wrapped in a cloth or a blanket. Already after the 3rd month the Moro reflex slowly declines until it disappears completely with the increasing maturation of the nervous system.
- Labyrinth position reflex: Thanks to this reflex, babies can lift their heads in the prone position with about one to two months. This reflex also helps in orientation in space. It usually ends with the child’s first year of life.
- Walking reflex: To control the age-appropriate development of the baby, the pediatrician tests the so-called walking reflex in the newborn. The baby makes walking movements as soon as it is kept upright and has contact with the soles of the feet to a firm support. After one month, the walking reflex has disappeared again.
- Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR): This reflex is also called a fencing position and is used to train the balance of the baby. For example, if the infant’s head is turned to the right, the right leg and right arm extended, and the extremities on the left side are attracted.
- Congenital reflexes ensure the survival of the child
- Protective reflexes such as coughing or blinking are preserved for a lifetime
- Early reflexes disappear after a few months with increasing brain maturity
- By the early childish reflexes, the pediatrician controls the development of the baby
- If these reflexes are not reduced, this can lead to developmental problems