Have you ever been to the doctor and they hit you with a little hammer right below your knee cap just to see how far your leg would kick up?
That ‘kicking’ response is called a reflex. As humans we all have a variety of reflexes that serve different purposes, but adult and infant reflexes differ and some reflexes are exclusive to infants. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions, meaning you have no control over what your body does in response to an action (like hitting your knee with a hammer) or just normal activity. Babies are born with lots of different reflexes that they will actually loose as they get older and develop. Infant reflexes are important because they help your babies survive and grow.
What is The Rooting Reflex?
The Rooting Reflex is probably one of the most important reflexes because it’s tied to feeding. Rooting happens when you touch your baby’s mouth or cheek, they will turn their head and open their mouth in the direction of the touch. This is an important reflex because its associated with feeding and is meant to help your baby find the breast or bottle. The Rooting Reflex normally disappears around 4 months of age for most healthy babies.
The Rooting Reflex is closely followed by the Suck Reflex – meaning if you put a finger or nipple in your baby’s mouth, they’ll suck on it. These two different primitive reflexes combine to help your baby feed from breast or bottle. Babies born very prematurely at less then 28 weeks gestation may not have a rooting or sucking reflex and will need to learn it outside of the uterus. This is part of the reason why extremely premature babies have difficulty feeding from a breast or bottle.
Because rooting is a reflex, it is not always a clear sign of hunger from your baby. A simple brush of the cheek with a blanket can simulate your baby to turn their head and start rooting. If your baby is actually hungry they will usually be awake and alert, lick and smack their lips, open their mouth and stick out their tongue, trying to suck on everything, rooting around, and putting their hands in their mouth.If you’re wondering if your baby is getting enough milk, you can read about the signs here.
Your local Mama Coach is always to available to help with lactation support even before your baby is born. Reach out if you have questions or need assistance.