Understanding Parachute Reflex in Babies

Understanding the Parachute Reflex in Babies

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Gunjan Baweja (Paediatrician)
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Reflex actions in babies are important signs that indicate their nervous systems are developing. These reflexes usually happen in the first few months and slowly stop once their brains become more mature. Common reflexes include stepping, suckling and parachute. This article aims at providing readers with some information about parachute reflex. Let’s first know what it really is.

Video : Parachute Reflex – How Does It Help Your Baby?

What Is a Parachute Reflex?

The parachute reflex in newborns is a motor response they develop around the age of 5 months. You can see this response when you hold the baby in a straight position and quickly turn him over facing downwards (as if falling). He will extend his arms to break the fall. This action is the parachute reflex and usually remains with a human being his entire life.

Why Do Infants Have a Parachute Reflex?

The parachute reflex is a primitive response, controlled by the central nervous system as a mode of survival. Primitive reflexes begin in the mother’s womb and hence are developed by the action of the outside world stimuli. They are usually involuntary and fade with time.

How to Determine Parachute Reflex in Infants

Visit your baby’s doctor each month and consult with him. That is the best way to check whether your little one has developed the parachute reflex. You can also check for these reactions:

  • Slowly put your child down on the floor where his body and his feet can come to rest. If you see his arms immediately extending and his legs slightly rotating, he has developed the parachute reflex. You can see this when your baby is 5 months old.
  • If your child stumbles forward and you see his arms extend ahead to protect his body from harm, then this is a frontal parachute reflex. You can see this in babies between 7 and 8 months of age.
  • Make your child sit with his legs hanging down. Gently push him to one side. A lateral parachute reflex can be seen if he spreads his arm to prevent himself from falling. You can see this in babies who are around 6 months old.
  • If you push your child backwards and his shoulders tilt back with his wrists and arms extended, then this is another protective parachute reflex.

Taking note of all these reflexes in your child can give you a better idea of how his nervous system and motor skills are developing.

How Long Do Babies Have the Parachute Reflex

Babies will start to develop parachute reflexes around 6 to 8 months of age. These reflexes remain with them throughout their life as it is a protective survival mechanism.

How Long Do Babies Have the Parachute Reflex

What If There Is Absence of Multiple Reflexes in a Baby?

When you do not observe any reflexes in your little one, maybe it is a sign that he is suffering from an injury to the nervous system or a weakness in his motor skills. You can check for the absence of multiple reflexes by observing the following:

  • The absence of coordination, resulting in less muscle tone. This can be seen when your baby crashes into objects and falls sideways.
  • Difficulty in paying attention or focusing on something, like when watching TV. This can usually manifest as a learning disorder by the time your child is in school.
  • Inability to sit up, and you see your baby perpetually lying down.
  • When your baby is unable to be potty trained.
  • When your baby has a hard time to do something with his hands, like eat. This shows lack of finer motor skills.
  • When your baby is always scared or dependent.

If you see these actions constantly in your baby, take him to the paediatrician soon. The paediatrician can start therapies targeted to the development of these multiple reflexes in your baby. A good way is to include movements and games in your baby’s everyday life, which can induce the involuntary reflexes automatically. These can be done in accordance with the child’s age and stage of development.

The presence of parachute reflexes in your baby shows that his nervous system and motor skills are on the right path of development. Watch out and be aware so that you can keep a check on your little one’s health while he is growing up.

Also Read:

Is It Safe to Give Bottled Water to Babies?
Travelling With a Baby on a Flight
Pest Control With a Baby Around
Newborn Baby Reflexes

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