BABY STEPS From crawling to walking and mimicking you: The 9 surprising things your newborn baby will do
Experts say babies will display a number of different reflexes in their first couple of months – some more “obvious” than others
IT’S well known that a baby can cry from the minute it’s born as it uses its lungs for the very first time – but not all their reactions are so readily expected.
Footage showing a newborn “walking” moments after birth at a hospital in Brazil went viral this week and left people stunned.
But experts later said it was totally normal and actually a simple reflex that all babies should be born with.
Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at NCT, told Sun Online that babies can display a number of different reflexes in their first couple of months, some more “obvious” than others.
These involuntary movements are often spontaneous and others are responses to certain actions.
But she adds: “All babies are different and depending on where they are in their development will depend on which reflexes they show.”
From grasping to stepping, here she talks us through some of the those that you might expect – and others that might surprise you.
The step reflex
The step reflex is when the baby appears to walk when held upright with her feet touching a solid surface.
Elizabeth says: “The baby doesn’t have the balance to walk unsupported yet but when held they do appear to step.
“We don’t have the answers as to why this happens but it’s thought it might be a reflex to something touching the foot and the baby picking it up while the other goes down.
“It’s quite interesting to see but it’s something they’ll stop doing as they learn to refine their actions.”
The Babinski reflex
This is when the big toe bends back toward to top of the foot as the other toes fan out and is seen when the sole of the foot is firmly stroked.
Elizabeth explains that this is thought to be a similar instinctive reaction as that of the step reflex.
Research by Stanford Children’s Health suggests this is a normal reflex up to about two years of age.
The Moro reflex
The Moro reflex is also known as the startle reflex as it usually happens when a baby hears a loud sound or movement.
Reacting to the noise the baby will throw her head back and extend out the arms and legs, cry and then pull them back in.
Elizabeth added: “This is the baby’s reaction to danger and something that’s instilled in them.”
It’s thought a baby’s own cry can even startle them to trigger this reflex.
The rooting and sucking reflex
Elizabeth says the rooting and sucking reflex are the more obvious reactions that parents can expect from their babies.
The root reflex begins when the corner of the baby’s mouth is stroked or touched.
The baby will turn his or her head and open their mouth to follow and “root” the direction of the stroking.
Similarly the suck reflex is when the roof of the baby’s mouth is touched, it will begin to suck.
Elizabeth says: “Babies aren’t automatically born knowing how to breastfeed but reflexes help them follow to the breast or the bottle.”
The grasp reflex
The grasp reflex is another one you might recognise.
It happens when you stroke the baby’s palm and she closes her hand, grabbing your fingers in a tight grasp.
Doctors believe this is baby’s way of trying to get as much skin-to-skin contact with you as possible, according to parenting.com.
This reflex tends to last until they’re about five or six months old.
The tonic neck reflex
This one is also known as “fencing” and occurs when a baby’s head is turned to one side.
The arm on that side stretches out and the opposite arm bends at the elbow.
It’s not known what this reflex is for but doctors say it helps your baby focus on the hand that is out in front of them and it might be helping their development with reaching in later life.
The crawling reflex
Paediatrician Anne Tait, from Auckland, told stuff.co.nz as well as a stepping reflex she has seen newborns attempt to crawl.
“As a registrar many years ago I saw a baby actually crawl up a mother’s belly to latch on to the breast.”
The withdrawal reflex
If you bring your face close to your baby you might see them suddenly turn their head away.
This is another attempt at self-protection similar to the Moro reflex.
It’s the same reaction we all have to protect ourselves if an object is coming our way.
This means this automatic reflex sticks throughout life.
Mimicking isn’t a recognised reflex, but it’s one that Elizabeth Duff of the NCT says she has seen.
“There are reports saying very young babies try to mimic facial expressions, such as opening your eyes or poking out your tongue.
“We don’t know the explanation for this but it usually makes the parents smile and gets the attention of the mum and dad.
“We think this acts as a bonding experience for the baby.”
Elizabeth noted that not all babies will show all the reflexes above, adding: “They may do different things as they get to know their own bodies and work out what’s right for them.
“And all babies are different – the development of one may be different to another.”
She added that if parents have any concerns about the baby’s development they should contact their health visitor.