Baby Milestones - Primitive Reflexes

Early development of baby milestones is marked by primitive reflexes - reflex actions that occur in response to certain stimuli. These primitive reflexes are important for babies to be able to cope alone after nine months being totally supported in the womb.

Primitive reflexes do not usually persist (except the parachute reflex) and persistence can be a sign that all is not well with the neurological system of the baby.

To view other the developmental milestones of babies and older children, click here

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The primitive reflexes your baby will exhibit are:

Moro reflex

When: This occurs from birth until about 3 months of age.

What: When the baby is held in the supine position and the head is suddenly allowed to fall back, there is symmetrical opening of the arms before they close again (extension then flexion of the limbs).

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Placing reflex

When: This occurs from birth until about 6 weeks of age of normal baby milestones.

What: When the baby is held upright and the top (dorsum) of the foot is brushed against the edge of a table, the baby will lift the foot and place it on the table.

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Stepping reflex

When: This occurs from birth until about 6 weeks of age.

What: When the baby is held in the upright position and the foot is placed on a firm surface, the baby will take steps.

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Rooting reflex

When: This occurs from birth until about 4 months of age.

What: When the baby is touched near the corner of the mouth, the baby will turn his head towards the stimulus. This is one of the baby milestones that is useful for getting babies to latch onto the breast - the baby will turn to the nipple if it is brushed on the baby's cheek.

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Sucking reflex

When: This occurs from birth until about 4 months of age.

What: When an object is placed in the mouth, the baby will start sucking. This is one of the baby milestones that is vital for survival. Babies don't have to learn how to feed after birth, it is a natural reflex.

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Palmar Grasp reflex

When: This occurs from birth until about 3 months of age.

What: The baby will close his hand if an object is placed in the palm. 

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Plantar Grasp reflex

When: This occurs from birth until about 10 months of age.

What: The baby will close his foot around an object is placed against the sole.

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Atonic neck reflex

When: This occurs from about 2 months until 6 months of age.

What: When the baby is lying on his back and the head is turned to one side, the arm on that side will extend and the other arm will flex - a fencing posture.

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Parachute (forward) reflex

When: This occurs from about 9 months of age and persists.

What: If the baby is held in a position where he is dropped forward, he will outstretch his hands. This is one of the baby milestones that is protective for falling.

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References

  • Mary Sheridan. From birth to five years. NFER-NELSON. ISBN 0 85633 074 4
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Last reviewed 24 May 2011

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Dr Maud MD

Dr Maud MD (MBChB, FRACP, FRCPCH), a specialist pediatrician, provides health information and medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers. Read more about Dr Maud.


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