Understanding Rooting Reflex in Babies

Understanding Rooting Reflex in Babies

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.

What is Rooting Reflex

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

How to Test Rooting Reflex in Infants

It is very important 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 your baby’s cheek or mouth. Your little one will react positively by turning their head toward the side where the stroking came from. Your baby will then continue their action by opening their mouth in search of the nipple.

How Does Rooting Reflex Work

This newborn rooting reflex is also known as the search reflex, as it 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; 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 them and their stomachs are full.

How Long Do Infants Have Rooting Reflex

Rooting reflex lasts 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 gradually stop reacting the stimulus.

Baby looking at mother

What is Retained Rooting Reflex

Rooting reflex in babies disappears after about 4 months. However, if it does not disappear, it is known as ‘retained’ rooting reflex. Usually, a retained neonatal reflex (be it rooting reflex, or any other), signifies developmental delay/s.

Symptoms of Retained Rooting Reflex

When babies do not respond to their rooting reflexes, there can be many issues that arise such as:

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

What if 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 hormone problems. If the child does not surpass these reflex stimuli, it could signal nervous system or brain damage.

What Causes Absence of Rooting Reflexes

As the absence of rooting reflexes in babies can lead to many issues, there have been researches on the reasons for babies not having proper rooting reflexes.

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

You need to always be alert of 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.

Also ReadCommon Newborn Reflexes in Babies