Infant Reflexes

Infant Reflexes that do not Integrate Successfully can Lead to Developmental Delays


Infant Reflexes and Developmental DelaysInfant Reflexes are involuntary movements due to a response to certain actions. These movements can occur spontaneously and as a part of the baby’s normal activity. The presence and strength of a reflex indicates the nervous system development and function.  Some reflexes occur only in specific periods of development. Many reflexes disappear as the child grows older, although some remain through adulthood. A reflex that is still present after the age when it would normally disappear can be a sign of brain or nervous system damage.  Healthcare providers check reflexes to determine if the brain and nervous system are working well in a growing child. These reflexes are mitigated by Central nerve system and brain stem. They inhibit in sequential order during first year.


Following are the reflexes seen in babies and what would they mean if they do not integrate successfully.

  • ♦ Blink and Acoustic Blink: Reacting to light, touch and noise.
  • ♦ Rooting: Present at birth and inhibited by 3-4 months. If it is retained, it indicates issues with eating solids, issue with language, poor manual dexterity while talking or chewing.
  • ♦ Palmer grasp: In this reflex, if an object is placed in the child’s hand it will curl its fingers around it. It is present at birth and inhibited by 2-3 months. If it is retained, it affects ability to hold objects and writing.
  • ♦ Planter grasp: In this reflex, toes curl around an object pressed against the bottom of the foot. It is present at birth and inhibited by 9 months or when starting to walk. If its retained it affects ability to walk.
  • ♦ ATNR: In this reflex, as a baby turns its head it will extend the arm and leg on the side of turn and flex the arm and leg on the contralateral side. It is present at birth and inhibited by 6 months. If it is retained, it indicates difficulty rolling, crawling, bringing hands to mouth. Later can cause scoliosis, poor hand/eye coordination, difficulty sitting at school.
  • ♦ Suspension: In this reflex, holding baby in vertical suspension at axilla. Gently lift then place feet on the table. Baby should not feel like it is going to slip out of your hands. At 3-4 months old the baby should try and weight bear by pushing down with its legs. This is the first postural reflex to appear. These reflex tests muscle tone and if it is delayed, it can affect walking.
  • ♦ Placing: In this reflex, holding baby vertically, touch the dorsum of the foot on the edge of a table, the baby will flex the knee and ‘place’ it’s foot on the top of the table. This reflex is present at birth and inhibited by 6 weeks to 3 months. It tests neurological integration and muscle tone.
  • ♦ Stepping: In this reflex, Soles of the feet are touched to a flat surface the reflex is to flex the knee and hip, looking like they are trying to walk. This reflex is present at birth and inhibited by 2 months. If it persists, it can be an indicator of Cerebral Palsy, leading to difficulty crawling. This reflex can reappear by 8-9 months as baby prepares for walking.
  • ♦ Plantar reflex- In this reflex, run your finger, pen or end of reflex hammer on the lateral side of the sole of the foot. Normal is for toes to flare. This reflex is present at birth and inhibited by 12-24 months as cortico-spinal tracts become myelinated. If it is retained, it can affect foot position, affect walking and balance. This can also lead to toe walking.
  • ♦ Galant- In this reflex, with the baby in the prone position stroke one side of the paraspinals, look for flexing of the hip towards that side. This reflex is present at birth and inhibited by 3-9 months. If it is retained, it can affect sitting still, if bilaterally stimulated will cause urination = bedwetting, sensitivity to clothing, irritation and reduced attention span due to irritation.
  • ♦ Moro- This response is for the unexpected stimulation or if they feel like they are falling. It is theorized it may have developed in human evolution to help the infant cling to its mother while she carried it around all day. If the infant lost its balance, the reflex caused the infant to embrace its mother and regain its hold on the mother’s body, this reflex is present at birth and inhibited by 2-5 months old. If it is retained, it can indicate Hypersensitivity to sudden noise, light or movement, anxiety, distractibility as has to pay attention to everything, adrenal fatigue, learning problems, motion sickness.

There are some postural reflexes which emerges during infancy and inhibits by 2years.  These reflexes include Landau, Symmetric Tonic neck, the righting reflexes, Parachute, clonus, lateral and posterior propping, cross marching and head lag. These reflexes assess muscle control, balance and crawling. If they do not integrate successfully, it can lead to learning disabilities, lack of coordination, inability or difficult to read, no concept of balance, clumsiness, stuttering, seeing or saying words backwards, dropping objects and tripping a lot.

These reflexes play major role in the development of gross motor, fine motor, language, cognitive, social skills. If the reflexes do not integrate properly, it simply indicates the dysfunction in nervous system development. Chiropractors are trained to perform gentle adjustments on the body to restore normal body and nervous system. The adjustment helps to aid the body to perform its function efficiently. Birthing is a complex process which can affect the development of your baby.  According to some studies, as much as 70lbs of pressure is being put on the baby’s head and neck during birth. This could injure the nerves and joints of the infant body as well as it can lead to slight misalignment in their vertebral column.  The adjustments help to relieve the pressure from the nerves and allow the body to perform its functions properly. Chiropractic care supports and strengthens the nervous system of the growing baby leading to a growing happy child.