Infant Reflexes Definition

Subject: Healthcare Research
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Study level: College


A reflex pertains to a natural action that is observed in response to a particular stimulus. In the case of an infant, the reflexes portrayed are necessary in order for him to survive in the open world, as opposed to his cloistered surroundings while developing in his mother’s womb (Wray, 2008). The reflexes observed in an infant will gradually disappear after a number of months because the infant there gets accustomed to his new environment he is living in. Infant reflexes serve as bases for pediatricians to know the degree of growth and development the infant has achieved.

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Infants may show a number of different reflexes. One of the most common infant reflexes is the rooting response. This type of reflex involves the turning of the infant’s head once a part of his face or head is stimulated by touch. If the top or his head or forehead is touched, the infant will turn his head upward. When one cheek is touched with a finger, the infant will turn his head towards that direction. Another common reflex among infants is the grip response, wherein the baby will grasp anything that is put in his hand. The easiest way to observe this reflex is by putting a finger over the palm of their hand and the infant will instantly close his fingers around that finger. The grip of the infant is generally strong and may end carry the entire weight of his body by this simple grip.

Another infant reflex is the toe curl, which involves either the spreading or curling of the toes as a response to a stimuli introduced to the infant’s foot. For example, when the sole of the foot of an infant is caressed, the toes of the infant will immediately curl, as if in a closing action for the foot. On the other hand, when the outer or dorsal side of the foot of an infant is caressed, the infant will respond by spreading out his toes. Another particular action common among infants is the stepping reflex, which involves the movement of the leg that is similar to a marching action. This reflex shows that the infant attempts to keep to keep his feet off the surface he is standing on but he actually ends up making a marching action. Infants also respond through the sucking reflex, which involves the mouth of the infant. The usual stimulus of the sucking reflex involves having an item in its mouth and once this item touches the roof of its mouth, the infant immediately responds by performing sucking actions (Colson et al., 2008). The particular reflex is very helpful when feeding an infant because once the nipple of a feeding bottle touches the roof of the baby’s mouth, the baby will start sucking. The same reaction will be observed with breastfeeding.

Infants are also known to be easily startled and this is called the moro reflex. This particular response is stimulated by sudden noises and the infant will suddenly raised his arms and even his legs. In the case of babies, such response also involves crying because they have been startled and keep their arms close to their body as if to protect themselves from the environmental insult. Another infant reflex is the tonic neck response, which involves having the arms and legs of a particular side of the baby’s body to spread out when the baby is let to lay on their ventral or abdominal side.


Infant reflexes are particular responses to certain stimuli that help them to adjust to their new environment. Since the outside world is very much different from their safe and warm homes in the womb of their moms, such reflexes assist these infants in getting used to their new homes. As the infants grow older and development more motor skills, these infant reflexes disappear.


Colson SD, Meek JH, Hawdon JM. (2008). Optimal positions for the release of primitive neonatal reflexes stimulating breastfeeding. Early Human Development, 84:441-9.

Wray J. (2008). Breastfeeding and primitive neonatal reflexes. Practical Midwife, 11:53-6.

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