When Does the Startle Reflex Go Away?

During the first few weeks or even months of your baby's life, much of her activity will be reflexive. Some of these automatic responses stay with her for a few weeks only, while others may remain with her longer. One of these automatic responses is the startle or "moro" reflex. The reflex occurs when your baby is startled by something abrupt or loud – it may also happens when her head falls backward. When this happens, your baby will throw out her legs and arms, extend her neck, and bring her arms together. Why it happens? When will the startle reflex go away? You may have many questions, but here are the answers.

When Does the Startle Reflex Go Away?

It usually takes up to 6 weeks or so for babies to feel secure in their surroundings. This is usually the time when their startle reflex will decrease in intensity and frequency. In most cases, it goes away completely when your baby is about 6 months old. But every baby is different. Still, you can help them by offering them lots of extra support. Here are a few considerations to make things more manageable:

  • Look for the triggers. They may startle for no reason, but this usually happens in response to a sudden movement, a loud noise, or the sensation of falling. Find triggers and avoid them.
  • Do not panic. Babies clench their fists, fling their arms up, and draw up their knees when a startle reflex starts. It is in an attempt to protect them.
  • Swaddle them to help them feel secure.

It is a good idea to see your baby's healthcare provider if your baby does not react to triggers. It may indicate damage to spinal cord or brain.

How to Minimize the Negative Effects of Startle Reflexes

Now that you know the answer to "When does the startle reflex go away", you may wonder what to do when startle reflexes bring negative effects to your baby. Most babies experience startle reflexes usually when they go to sleep. When you lean over to lay your baby down, the chance of position makes them feel as if they are falling. This may wake them up and even make them cry. To resolve the issue, simply keep your baby close to your body until he/she is in deep sleep and lower your body as well when putting them in the crib. That support will give them a sense of security and prevent the startle reflex. Swaddling your baby will also help. The following video will help you learn how to swaddle a baby:

When to See Your Doctor

When does the startle reflex go away? It is a common question, but you also need to learn when to call your doctor. It is important to talk to your doctor if you think your baby's reflexes are not normal. There may be a nerve injury if the Moro reflex is only affecting one side of your baby's body. If it is lacking on the both side, there may be a spinal cord or brain damage.

When Does Other Types of Reflexes Go Away?

In addition to asking "when does the startle reflex go away", you may want to learn more about other reflexes during the first few months of his/her life. Here is more about when you should expect other types of reflexes to go away.

1. Rooting Reflex

The reflex makes your baby turn her head towards the nipple when you stroke her mouth or cheek. Your baby will be able to turn her head and move her head toward the nipple when she is 3 weeks old. The reflex usually goes away completely when your newborn is 4 months old.

2. Sucking Reflex

This reflex is present even before birth and makes your baby suck her thumb. Your baby will automatically start sucking her thumb when something comes into contact with the roof of her mouth. the reflex also helps an infant learn to breathe and swallow. Sucking usually becomes a voluntary activity by 4 months, but it does not disappear completely.

3. Stepping Reflex

Hold your newborn upright with the soles of her feet on a table and you will see her take steps. Even though they cannot support their body weight at this stage, they still know they have to put one foot in front of the other to walk. The reflex usually goes away by the second month but may recur around 12 months.

4. Palmer and Plantar Grasps

Stroke the palm of your baby's hand and you will notice her grip your finger. This is the palmer grasp. If you stroke her foot, she will curl her toes. This is called the plantar grasp. The palmer grasp usually goes away at 5-6 months, whereas the plantar grasp disappears by 9-12 months.

5. Asymmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex

This primitive reflex usually goes away by your baby's first birthday. Also known as the "fencing reflex", it makes your baby get in the position of a classically trained fencer. Keep in mind that the reflex may persist and even become pronounced in children with cerebral palsy and other developmental issues. They may also cause problems with functional activities such as bringing the hands together, rolling, or even lifting the hand.

6. Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex

This primitive reflex can cause the head to tilt back with toes pointed, arms bent at the elbows, and fingers curled. It also caused the back to arch backwards and legs to straighten completely. If it is present beyond the first months of life, there may be some developmental problems. Under normal circumstances, the reflex goes away completely when your baby is 4-6 months old.

7. Babinski Reflex

Also present at birth, you should not confuse the Babinski reflex with the plantar reflex. It usually goes away within the first year of your baby's life. The reflex appears when you stroke the side of the food of your newborn. It causes the hallux to extend and the toes to fan out a little. It usually indicates a lack of myelination in the corticospinal tract and indicates neurological abnormality.

8. Galant Reflex

This reflex is present at birth and usually goes away when your baby is 4-6 months old. Stroke the back of your infant and you will notice her swing towards the side you stroked. This happens due to the Galant reflex. If it does not vanish after six months, it may indicate pathology. 

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