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Innate Neonate Capacities

Reflexes are the mainstay of the neonate's movements. Reflexes allow infants to respond automatically to certain stimuli in the environment around him/her, before the infant has had the opportunity to learn an appropriate response. Some reflexes will quickly develop into voluntary motion, but most will disappear in time. The main reflexes are:

Reflex Stimulation Infant's Response Developmental pattern
Blinking Flash of light, puff of air Closes eyes Permanent
Babinski Sole of foot stroked Fans out toes; twists foot in Disappears 9 months to 1 year
Grasping Palms touched Grasps tightly Weakens 3 moths; disappears 1 year
Moro Sudden stimulation, e.g. loud noise Startles; arches back; throws head back; throws out arms and legs and then rapidly pulls them close to body Disappears 3-4 months
Rooting Cheek stroked or side of mouth touched Turns towards source of stimulation, opens mouth and begins to suck Disappears 3-4 months
Stepping Infant held upright and feet allowed touch the ground Moves feet as if to walk Disappears 3-4 months
Sucking Object touching mouth Sucks automatically Disappears 3-4 months
Swimming Placed face down in water Makes co-ordinated swimming movements Disappears 6-7 months
Tonic neck Placed on back Makes fists and turns head to the right Disappears 2 months
Source [ 1 ]

The rooting reflex is useful as the baby does not need to actively search for it's food source, instead it automatically turns towards to it's primary food source, the breast nipple or bottle, and begins to suck. This reflex usually starts to fade once the baby can direct itself towards the source of it's food on it's own.
The sucking reflex is a similar survival mechanism.
The grasping reflex is another important reflex with obvious survival value. This reflex gradually develops into more complex, voluntary actions a few months after birth.

The information in this page is presented in summarised form and has been taken from the following source(s):
1. Child Development , 6th Edition (1994), J. W. Santrock, Wm. C. Brown Communications, Inc.


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  http://www.hon.ch/Dossier/MotherChild/postnatal/reflexes.html Last modified: Jun 25 2002