Rooting Reflex

The rooting reflex is an important reflex in a newborn baby. It is vital because it helps a baby be able to find his mother’s breast and nurse.

Rooting Reflex

Rooting Reflex

A reflex is an involuntary movement. It is performed automatically. Reflexes are indicators of healthy brain and nerve function. Babies are born with several reflexes that help aid in their survival.

The rooting reflex can easily be seen in a healthy infant. If a corner of a baby’s mouth is lightly touched, the baby will turn towards the touch and open his mouth. The baby will then continue to root in the direction of the touch. The baby is searching for something to suck, so the rooting reflex helps establish breastfeeding or bottle-feeding.

Once a baby becomes used to responding in this same way for a feeding, he will be able to latch directly onto the nipple without searching. The rooting reflex will normally disappear in babies after four months. However, some babies will continue to have the rooting reflex throughout their first year of life.

The rooting and sucking reflexes develop at around 32 weeks gestation. They are not fully developed until approximately week 36. Because of this, premature babies may not have the proper rooting reflex. Absence of reflexes can also indicate birth trauma or illness. Newborns with a weak or absent rooting reflex must be carefully monitored since this can impair their desire to feed.

At times, the rooting reflex can be mistaken for a sign of hunger. Since a reflex is involuntary, a baby will try to root when anything touches his face. A baby may even activate his own rooting reflex when his hands touch his face. If the baby is bothered by this, swaddling can help calm the baby and alleviate the problem.

Shortly after birth, a newborn baby will receive a reflex test to make sure all reflexes have developed properly. The rooting reflex will be tested, as well as the sucking reflex, tonic neck reflex, grasping reflex, stepping reflex, Moro reflex, and Babinski reflex. The Moro reflex is also called the startle reflex. The Babinski reflex is demonstrated when the sole of the foot is stroked. The big toe will bend back and the other four toes will fan out.

Newborn reflexes, including the rooting reflex, are fascinating to observe. Reflexes help transition babies to life and receive what they need to survive and thrive.

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