From birth, babies make astonishing movements: how can they take the breast only a few hours after being born? Why does he grab our finger?
Definition of the primitive reflex
Primitive reflexes are automatic involuntary movements made in response to an external stimulus (noise, light, touch, etc.). As his nervous system is not mature, baby does not have the capacity to control his movements.
They are therefore evidence of the good development of baby's nervous and motor system and are automatically looked for during the first medical visit :)
Some reflexes are even integrated in utero so that baby can turn or bend to be guided out. These reflexes make baby's movements quite rough, but around 3-4 months baby starts to have voluntary movements (phew)!
Let's look at baby's primitive reflexes:
It's no secret that baby sucks automatically as soon as we present him with something to suck on (a breast, a finger, a bottle or a teat). This is quite practical because to survive, baby needs to feed and suck milk :) and the dummy to calm him is also practical. It appears during pregnancy (it is not uncommon to see baby sucking his thumb on ultrasound scans). It disappears around the age of 6 months.
If you are breastfeeding, babywearing in a sling/wrap will be very practical so that baby has an easier position to suckle.
Once essential for clinging to the mother, grasping is the reflex where baby automatically grabs your finger if you put it in his hand (much too cute!). This reflex allows the infant to practice holding objects in his hands and helps to create an attachment bond. It disappears between 2 and 3 months.
The Moro reflex
You have probably already seen baby spread his legs and arms in a cross and then bring his arms back against his chest. This is a "defensive" reflex that occurs when there is a sudden stimulus: noise, light, rapid change of position, etc. It disappears around 6 months.
Babywearing your baby allows him to be reassured much more quickly! Against you, he is less afraid of danger, reassured by your presence and is in a physiological position where his limbs are already grouped together.
The cardinal points reflex
When you tickle baby's cheek, you see his head turn to the side of the area stimulated by the touch. This reflex makes breastfeeding easier.
The crawling reflex
If baby is on his stomach, he should try to crawl forward with his arms and legs, bringing his buttocks up. This gesture allows him to move towards his breast to feed when he is on his mother.
If you place your baby in an upright position, with his feet touching a flat surface, he will automatically initiate a forward movement, one leg after the other. And although you see him making these impressive movements, it is only months later that he will walk independently!
The fencing reflex
A strange name to express that if baby moves his head to one side, then the arm on the same side will extend while the arm on the opposite side will bend. It is a reflex that has an important role in baby's motor development and is synonymous with good muscle tone :)
It disappears around 6 months..
The cross-extension reflex
If the sole of baby's foot is stimulated and the lower limb is held in extension, baby should extend his other leg and bring it closer to the stimulated one as if to ward off "the tickle".
There are many other amazing reflexes such as the survival reflex, but finding a few is enough to show that baby is developing well. If they are not present, or if the reflex persists, this may indicate a developmental disorder.
This should interest you:
Sources : Psychomotricity: Psychomotor development of the child - Nelly Thomas (Faculty of Medicine Pierre et Marie CURIE)