Newborn Reflexes

Learn More About Newborn Reflexes

Newborn reflexes in the first moments and even months of life form the building blocks of future development. It starts out as reflex and soon turns into purposeful, cognitive and physical action. Your health care provider will test your newborn for these reflexes soon after birth and again at your first check-ups. You can test these reflexes yourself as well.

1
Sucking Reflex

Baby girl drinking bottle
Baby's sucking reflex. JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Images

If you touch the roof of your baby’s mouth with your finger, a pacifier or a nipple, he will instinctively begin sucking. Around 2 to 3 months of age, your baby’s sucking will be a result of conscious effort and no longer a reflex.

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2
Rooting Reflex

Mother touching baby boy's cheek
Baby's rooting reflex. Emma Kim / Getty Images

If you stroke your newborn’s cheek, he will open his mouth and turn his head toward the side that was stroked in order to seek out your nipple or other source of food. After about 4 months this reflex disappears but it can last up to a year (especially when your baby is sleeping).

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3
Grasp Reflex

Grasp Reflex
Grasp Reflex. Photo © A.D.A.M.
If you place your finger or other slim object in your baby’s palm, his fingers will grasp the object tightly. This reflex is also present in the feet causing the toes to curl. It can be tested by lightly touching your baby’s feet or toes. This reflex only lasts until your child is about 3 months old.

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4
Stepping Reflex

Stepping Reflex
Stepping Reflex. Photo © A.D.A.M.

If you carefully support your baby underneath his arms, lean him slightly forward and lower his feet onto a hard, flat surface, he will make a walking motion. This reflex lasts about 2 months.

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5
Startle Reflex

Startle Reflex
Startle Reflex. Photo © A.D.A.M.
If your baby gets a sense of falling or hears a loud noise like a dog barking or door shutting, he will extend his arms and legs, open his fingers and arch his back. Then he will clench his fists and pull his arms to his chest. Your baby may also cry. This reflex should disappear at around 2 to 4 months of age.

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6
Fencing Reflex

Stepping Reflex
Stepping Reflex. Photo © A.D.A.M.
If you place your baby on his back, he will look like a little fencer. His head will turn with the arm and leg of one side extended (the pair on the side he’s turned toward) and his other arm and leg will be flexed. This reflex can be present up to about 6 months of age or about the time your baby begins rolling over (back-to-stomach) competently and regularly.

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7
Plantar Reflex

New Born Baby
Baby's plantar reflex. Miho Aikawa / Getty Images

A stroke to the foot causes your newborn's toes to extend upward and his foot to turn inward. Present from birth up to the second birthday, though it will likely disappear much sooner.

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