Education

The importance of infant reflexes

Updated: 2012-10-10
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infant reflexes
 
In early development infants initially learn to move not as the result of being taught, but as a result of primitive, unconscious reflexes.

A Tonic REFLEX is one which, when stimulated, causes a reaction in a group of muscles. When a newborn is placed on the their back and their head is turned to the left, their whole body will move in response – the right arm and leg will bend and their left arm will straighten.

Nature can be the best teacher if we allow it to play its role in infant development.

Have you ever wondered why your newborn curls their bodies up on their front and straightens on their back? Or why young babies, when lying on their front, seem to ‘wriggle’ up to the head of the basinet?

All of these movement will occur normally during the first months of an infants life and are a result of inherent unconscious reflexes.

What is the purpose of reflexes?

Why are they important?

Reflexes contribute significantly to a child’s early development as they consist of a foundation for voluntary movements. Many of the early infancy reflexes are suppressed by the time the baby is between six to eight months old.
 
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Be sure to stimulate your baby’s early development by playing with them a lot so that their inborn reflexes can play their role in promoting growth and brain development.

Try this: Lie on your back with your knees bent up, place your baby on your front (tummy down). You will find that your baby will lift its head and push away against your legs as if trying to move forward. Keep your baby’s arms bent, with their fists below their shoulders and their elbows at their sides.

A similar reflex occurs when your baby is placed on their front and you place your hand lightly against their feet, they will push forward by straightening their legs.

Every time you change your baby’s nappy take a few moments to exercise and massage them. This will send messages to the baby’s ligaments, muscles, joints and skin and promote the development of muscle tone.

One of the earliest reflexes which occurs in infantry is your babies clenched fists. It is easier to open your baby’s hands when they are on their backs. Try lightly stroking the back of the hand to encourage their fists to open. Gently pulling your baby’s arm down and massaging your babies feet will also encourage this reflex.

Here is one exercise.

Place your baby on its back, and stroke its leg near the heel. Their toes will spread open. Then touch their sole of their feet near their toes, and then toes will contract and bend. Massage each foot four times per exercise.
 
SOURCE: KindyROO
 
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