Newborn Reflexes

newborn-baby-photo Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions. Some movements are spontaneous, occurring as part of the baby’s usual activity. Others are responses to certain actions. Reflexes help identify normal brain and nerve activity. Some reflexes occur only in specific periods of development.

Primitive reflexes are reflex actions originating in the central nervous system that are exhibited by normal infants but not neurologically intact adults, in response to particular stimuli. These reflexes disappear or are inhibited by the frontal lobes as a child moves through normal child development.




Rooting and sucking rooting reflexNewborns turns head in direction of stimulus, opens mouth, and begins to suck when cheek, lip, or corner of mouth is touched with finger or nipple. Weak or no response occurs with prematurity, neurologic deficit or injury, or central nervous system (CNS) depression secondary to maternal drug ingestion (eg. narcotics).
Extrusion extrusion reflexNewborn pushes tongue outward when tip of tongue is touched with finger or nipple. Continuous extrusion of tongue or repetitive tongue thrusting occurs with CND anomalies and seizures.
Swallowing Newborn swallows in coordination with sucking when fluid is placed on back of tongue. Gagging, coughing, or regurgitation of fluid may occur, possibly associated with cyanosis secondary to prematurity, neurologic deficit, or injury; typically seen after laryngoscopy.
Moro Bilateral symmetrical extension and abduction of all extremities, with thumb and forefinger forming characteristic “C” are followed by adduction of extremities and return to relaxed flexion when newborn’s position changes suddenly or when newborn is placed on back on flat surface.moro reflex Asymmetrical response is seen with peripheral nerve injury (brachial plexus) or fracture of clavicle or long bone or arm or leg. No response occurs in cases of severe CNS injury.
Stepping Newborn will step with one foot and then the other in walking motion when one foot is touched to flat surface.
step reflex
Asymmetrical response is seen with CNS or peripheral nerve injury or fracture of long bone of leg.
Prone crawl Newborn will attempt to crawl forward with both arms and legs when placed on abdomen or flat surface.
prone crawl
Asymmetrical response is seen with CNS or peripheral nerve injury or fracture of long bone of leg.
Tonic neck or “fencing” Extremities on side to which head is turned will extend, and opposite extremities will flex when newborn’s head is turned to one side while resting. Response may be absent or incomplete immediately after birth.
tonic neck
Persistent response after 4th month may indicate neurologic injury. Persistent absence seen in CNS injury and neurologic disorders.
Startle Newborn abducts and flexes all extremities and may begin to cry when exposed to sudden movement or loud noise.
Absence of response may indicate neurologic deficit or injury. Complete and consistent absence of response to loud noises may indicate deafness. Response may be absent or diminished during sleep.
Crossed Extension Newborn’s opposite leg will flex and then extend rapidly as if trying to deflect stimulus to other foot when placed in supine position; newborn will extend one leg in response to stimulus on bottom of foot. Weak or absent response is seen with peripheral nerve injury or fracture of long bone.
Glabellar “blink” Newborn will blink with first 4 or 5 taps to bridge of nose when eyes are open. Persistent blinking and failure to habituate suggest neurologic deficit.
Palmar grasp grasp reflexNewborn’s finger will curl around object and hold on momentarily when finger is placed in palm of newborn’s hand. Response is diminished in prematurity. Asymmetry occurs with peripheral nerve damage (brachial plexus) or fracture of humerus. No response occurs with severe neurologic deficit.
Plantar Grasp plantar graspNewborn’s toes will curl downward when a finger is placed against the base of the toes. Diminished response occurs with prematurity. No response occurs with severe neurologic deficit.
Babinski sign babinski reflexNewborn’s toes will hyperextend and fan apart from dorsiflexion of big toe when one side of foot is stroked upward from heel and across ball of foot. No response occurs with CNS deficit.

Newborn Reflex Video

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