Moro's reflex: what is it?
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Moro’s reflex: what is it?

Present in babies from birth until about 5 months old, the Moro reflex is a sign of good health. But often interpreted as a stress for the newborn, it can distress young parents.

What is Moro’s reflex?

Moro’s reflex, such as grasping fingers or even sucking, is part of the baby’s archaic reflex family. These movements of the infant, 7 in number, are completely involuntary, automatic, and completely normal.

What is Moro’s reflex for and where does it come from?

Historically they are intended to allow the little one to fend for himself after birth and to adapt to his new environment. They are placed during the thirtieth week of development in utero and remain present until about the fifth month after birth. Almost all of them disappear after a few weeks or months and are composed as follows:

  • The Grasping Reflex: baby grips and squeezes his fingers very tightly;
  • The sucking that allows him to suck;
  • Automatic walking: baby, held under the arms by the pediatrician, advances his legs as if to take steps;
  • The reflex of the cardinal points: caress his cheek and he turns his head to the same side;
  • The tonic reflex of the neck: baby slightly straightens his neck and back during an examination performed at the maternity ward by the pediatrician;
  • The reflex of cross lengthening: when one tickles the infant’s foot, it lengthens the other;
  • And finally, the Moro reflex comes in response to an uncomfortable stimulus that historically served the child to allow him to cling to his mother.

Moro’s reflex, how does it manifest itself?

Hearing a loud noise, positioned in an uncomfortable posture, or in the presence of a movement too sudden for him, the baby triggers this reflex in response to unpleasant stimulation. This is manifested by a sudden opening of his legs, arms, and fingers and then returning to their starting position, brought back and tightened along his body. Screaming and crying can also occur in parallel, the only form of communication available to him at this age.

Presence or absence of Moro’s reflex in the baby

For the pediatrician who follows your baby, the Moro reflex is essential between 0 and 5 months, since it tells him that everything is fine and that his brain development is normal. In the absence of this reflex (which is relatively very rare), the doctor may consider performing thorough examinations to determine if the baby’s tone is low or if neurological problems could explain this absence.

In the same way, the persistence of this reflex beyond 5 months of life is not normal. The doctor will then consider looking for possible developmental delays or neurological problems in the child of very different severity. But in most cases, Moro’s reflex disappears around the age of 3 months, and then comes the normal phenomenon of startle of the child.

How to test Moro’s reflex?

During your baby’s monthly appointments, the pediatrician performs a number of tests. As for Moro’s reflex, the infant is placed lying on his back, then the doctor lifts him a few centimeters by placing his fingers in the palms of the little one’s hands and forcing him to stretch his arms. Then he drops it back onto the table and observes its reactions. Moro’s reflex is then considered normal if the child meets the various criteria that define it.

What to do when Moro’s reflex prevents the baby from sleeping?

During sleep, it is common for a baby to wake up following these involuntary movements related to Moro’s reflex. Screaming and crying then take over and place the infant and his parents in a difficult situation to live in the long term.

To soothe him and avoid being awakened with a start by his involuntary movements, swaddling is recommended by more and more early childhood professionals. This ancient practice, but now trendy, would calm the little one by creating a feeling of enveloping sweetness.

The baby is born with many skills allowing him to adapt to his new life, it is up to you to help him develop them, improve them and accompany him throughout his life so that he can grow and evolve at his own pace.

Image Credit: Photo by Colin Maynard on Unsplash

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