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“An infant’s physical development infant begins at the head, then moves to other parts of the body. For example, sucking comes before sitting, which comes before walking.” // Medline Plus
Research has found that your baby’s reflex development begins as early as life in the womb. All babies are born with reflexes, but when you choose to play with your baby, you are encouraging his or her natural reflexes to develop and form quicker. You can begin this as early as day one of life outside of the womb.
New parents often feel overwhelmed and confused about where to start with their baby and look forward to 6 or 9 months down the road when their baby is more developed and aware. But what a lot of parents don’t realize is that they can begin establishing development earlier and strengthening their alertness.
“Newborn reflexes are automatic responses to stimuli.The nature of a newborn reflex is that the baby doesn’t have to think about what to do, but rather does things instinctively.” // Pediatrician Edith J. Chernoff, MD, director of Premier Kids at La Rabida Children’s Hospital in Chicago and an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.
Here are some reflexes you can begin stimulating your newborn with:
1. Rooting Reflex: this reflex is used to help the baby find the breast or the bottle.
Stimulus: stroke your baby’s cheek.
Response: he will turn his head toward the sensation.
2. More (Startle) Reflex: this helps him gain balance or signal for help.
Stimulus: give your baby the sensation of falling or make a sudden loud noise.
Response: he will throw his arms and legs out.
3. Palmar (Hand) and Plantar (Foot) Grasp Reflexes: this helps your baby reach and grasp objects with his hands.
Stimulus: stroke the palm of your baby’s hand and the bottom of his foot.
Response: your baby will grasp your finger with his hands and curl his toes toward your finger.
4. Stepping Reflex: this familiarizes your baby with using his legs.
Stimulus: hold your baby under both arms, stand him up and support his head with your fingers, place his feet on a flat surface.
Response: he will lift one leg and then the other, simulating a march.
5. Tongue Thrust Reflex: this reflex prevents your baby from choking on foreign objects.
Stimulus: touch a spoon to the tip of his tongue.
Response: your baby will push the spoon back out.
(Information adapted from A Practical Handbook for New Dads by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Hayden.)
Most reflexes disappear after several months or develop into conscious movements. The goal behind encouraging your baby’s reflexes is to begin playing with him or her early, encouraging strength building and bonding.
“All babies are unique and meet milestones at their own pace. Developmental guidelines simply show what your baby has the potential to accomplish — if not right now, then soon.” // Baby Center
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