Strange Movements Newborns Make… That Are All Perfectly Normal!

If you’re new to parenting, you may find yourself surprised and sometimes confused about the peculiar movements your newborn makes. Newborn reflexes are innate/automatic movements caused by a newborn’s healthy functioning nervous system and they eventually disappear after a period of time/growth. While some of these movements look odd or even alarming, rest assured that they’re normal and a sign of healthy growth. 

Typical Newborn Reflexes

Moro or “Startle” Reflex 

This reflex is exactly as it’s pseudonym describes – a startled response during which baby quickly extends their neck, arms, and legs, often when their head position changes abruptly or in response to a loud noise. This reflex is usually gone by 8 weeks.  

Sucking Reflex

If you’ve noticed your baby sucking on anything that’s put in their mouth, don’t worry — it’s by design. Sucking and rooting are survival instincts that are present before birth and are important for successful feeding.  

Step Reflex

Did you newborn can almost walk?? Well, kind of. If you hold your baby upright, under their arms and with their neck well supported and place their feet on a flat surface, they will step a foot forward as if trying to walk. This reflex is present to help with the “breast/chest crawl” after birth to find their food source and disappears around 2 months of age. 

Tonic Neck Reflex, aka “Fencing”

If a “walking” newborn wasn’t impressive, how about fencing? The tonic neck reflex, which occurs when baby is laying face up and then faced to one side, is when baby extends one arm out while the other arm stays bent and close to the head with a clenched, fisted hand. The response should be equally present on both sides and should disappear by 5 or 7 months of age. 

Galant Reflex

This reflex, also called truncal incurvation, causes baby’s hips to twitch or curve outward when their spine is stroked or tapped while laying on their stomach. It disappears by around 9 months. 

Grasp Reflex

Arguably the cutest reflex, the grasp response is when baby closes their hand around a finger or toy placed in their open palm. Their grip around your finger or an object is surprisingly strong! Baby may let go suddenly or may grip so tight you have to pry their fingers off. This reflex will disappear around 5-6 months old. 

Rooting Reflex

Another survival instinct, the rooting reflex helps with feeding and occurs when you stroke baby’s cheek. They will turn toward that side and open their mouth and/or make sucking motions. This response will disappear around 4 months. 

 

All of the above reflexes indicate a healthy, well-functioning nervous system. If you think your baby isn’t showing one or more of these reflexes, talk to your baby’s pediatrician as it could indicate a developmental issue. Similarly, if your baby continues to show a reflex after the time that it’s expected to disappear, it’s also important to talk to your baby’s doctor. 

 

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