Understanding Rooting Reflex in Babies

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Understanding Rooting Reflex in Babies

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Giving birth to a baby is a strenuous process, and if you’re becoming a mom for the first time, then there are a lot of new changes coming your way. In the first few weeks after giving birth, you’ll learn about your newborn’s reactions. When your little one is born, you will notice that most of his activities during the first few weeks are either a reflex or are stimuli-induced. For example, your baby’s automatic reflex when you put your finger in their mouth is to suck on the finger. These reflexes help your baby navigate the world and the changes in her life.

What Is Rooting Reflex?

One of the critical reflexes that your baby is born with is called the rooting reflex. When you stroke your baby’s cheek or mouth, it will prompt your baby to turn her head toward that direction. This is known as the rooting reflex and is an essential reflex that will help your baby in finding the nipple during feeding. Your baby will, at first, root her head from side to side trying to find the nipple. By three to four weeks, she will turn her head and position the mouth to feed.

How to Test the Rooting Reflex in Infants

It is essential to test your baby’s reflexes and gauge if they are strong, especially the rooting reflex. Your baby’s health care provider will first lay your baby on a soft padded bed, followed by gently stroking her cheek or mouth. Your little one will react positively by turning her head toward the side where the stroking came from. Your baby will then continue this action by opening her mouth in search of the nipple.

How Does the Rooting Reflex Work?

A newborn’s rooting reflex is also known as the search reflex, as it is probably nature’s way of assisting babies search for their source of food, the nipple or the feeding bottle. This involuntary stimulus of your baby will help them open their mouth, whenever the action associated with it is initiated, i.e. stroking of the cheeks or mouth. Parents, you need to be careful as sometimes you might mistake this movement as a sign that your baby is hungry, despite having fed her and her stomach being full.

How Long Do Infants Have the Rooting Reflex?

The rooting reflex lasts for about three to four months, as your baby is adjusting to their new reflexes and getting accustomed to the stimulus associated with them. It will disappear gradually, but don’t worry if your baby takes a few more months to stop reacting to the stimulus.

How Long Do Infants Have the Rooting Reflex?

What Is Retained Rooting Reflex?

Rooting reflex in babies disappears after about four months. However, if it does not disappear, it is known as a retained rooting reflex. Usually, a retained neonatal reflex (be it rooting reflex, or any other), signifies developmental delays.

Symptoms of Retained Rooting Reflex

When babies do not stop responding to their rooting reflexes, there can be many issues that may arise. Some of them are:

  • The baby’s tongue may lay forward
  • Extreme or hypersensitivity around the mouth
  • Facing difficulty with solid foods and food textures
  • Thumb sucking
  • Speech and articulation difficulties
  • Issues in chewing and swallowing of food
  • Drooling
  • Hormone imbalance

What If the Rooting Reflex is Absent in Babies?

The lack of proper rooting reflex integration can contribute to many issues and difficulties as your baby grows up. Problems related to speech, writing, eating disorders, and hormonal imbalance may arise. If the child does not surpass these reflex stimuli, it could signal some damage in the nervous system or the brain.

What Causes Absence of the Rooting Reflexe?

As the absence of rooting reflex in babies can lead to many issues, there has been a lot of research on the reasons for babies not having a proper rooting reflex.

  • Premature birth
  • Neurological deficit
  • Neurological injury
  • Central nervous system damage from maternal drug ingestion

You always need to be alert to how your baby responds to different actions and stimulus, as it will help you understand how your baby is developing their senses and their reflexes. Taking care of a newborn can be challenging, but there is a lot of information available to help parents learn and prepare for this phase. In case, you see that your baby is not reacting to your touch or you are concerned about your baby’s health, reach out to a paediatrician to address your concerns.

Also ReadCommon Newborn Reflexes in Babies

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