Infant Reflexes

What are they and why are they important?

At its core Baby College is a parent and baby programme which concentrates on your baby’s correct neurological development. One of our main themes throughout the classes is the replacement of your baby’s infant (primitive) reflexes with more adult responses. What exactly does that mean? Newborn babies have no control over their body’s movements so nature (and a millennia of evolution) has developed a system which overcomes this problem and this solution is a set of automatic, inbuilt infant reflexes. All babies are born with this set of infant reflexes and these help them survive their time in the womb, the birthing process and their first few months of life. These reflexes are not only essential for their survival in those early months but are needed for their subsequent development. An infant reflex manifests itself as a specific response to a specific stimulation. A seconds old baby stroked gently on the side of their face will turn their head, purse their lips and root for the breast (Rooting Reflex) and if that breast is placed in the baby’s mouth they will suck (Sucking Reflex). Though these reflexes make sure that the baby can feed, they have no control over this action; if you stroke their cheek their head will turn, and they are helpless to prevent this from happening. However, as this action is repeated the young baby will develop muscle control and will be able to override this reflex. They will in fact develop a more mature, adult response to the stimuli and will eventually be able to move their head and suck whenever they want to and not be controlled by their reflex. The key to your baby replacing their infant reflexes is to repeat these movements often and this should ensure that all their infant reflexes are ‘used up’. Sometimes this doesn’t happen naturally and within our expertly designed Baby College classes we use a set of repetitive, age appropriate specific exercises to ensure that this process does happen. Why is it Important? For normal neurological development to happen a baby must use up and replace its infant reflexes at the appropriate time. The retention of these primitive reflexes can hinder correct development and can be linked to learning problems in later childhood. Movement and the opportunity to move is the key. It is, therefore, imperative that you provide your baby with plenty of movement opportunities such as dancing around the kitchen together, gentle swings in your arms, singing ‘This Little Piggy went to Market’ whilst playing with fingers and toes, doing some tummy-time, so that these reflexes will be replaced. Modern sedentary lifestyles are not conducive for your baby’s neurological development, so it is up to you to provide the movement and the fun! Baby College can make this easier for you by giving you lots of ideas of how to play with and stimulate your baby.