Saturday, January 26, 2008
What reflex actions is a baby born with?
The most importance of several involuntary responses found in healthy newborns is the rooting reflex, by which infants instinctively turn toward the stimulus of touch and open their mouths. This reflex enables the newborn child to find nourishment when in contact with the mother's breast and to feed long before being able to see or smell the nipple and know its purpose.
The Moro reflex, named in honour of a German pediatrician who practiced early in this century, occurs when a newborn is started by loud noises or by a sudden change in position. (In adults the equivalent is called the startle reflex.) Infants will fling out their arms and legs, then clench the fists and pull the arms back in a movement that resembles embracing. Scientists have speculated that the Moro reflex is a primitive gesture that helps the infant cling securely to the mother.
A third kind of involuntary response observed in newborns is the Babinski reflex, named for the French neurologist who described it in detail in 1896. Stroking the bottom of an infant's foot causes the toes to spread and turn upward.
An obstetrician may check a baby immediately after delivery for one or more of these reflexes. Their presence indicates normal development.