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Development of Reflexes in Children

by Eliza Martinez, studioD

Your child is born with several reflexes, many of which are primitive responses that aid in survival. While some of these reflexes disappear -- most within the first year of life -- others begin to develop after birth. They help keep your baby safe and are part of healthy and normal development as your baby grows. If you are ever concerned that your baby's reflexes aren't appearing, talk to her pediatrician to rule out a problem such as a brain or nerve disorder.

Parachute Reflex

The parachute reflex generally develops between 5 to 6 months of age and helps a falling child catch herself. When this reflex shows up, you'll probably see your little one reach out her arms if she feels as though she's falling over. This reflex sets in long before a child learns to walk, but offers built-in protection when she does and inevitably takes several spills each day. To test this reflex, hold your child upright and allow her to fall forward, keeping your hands close to her body to prevent an actual fall.

Propping Reflex

The propping reflex kicks in at different ages, but is one that helps your child learn to sit upright. This reflex occurs in stages, with the first appearing, on average, at four to five months of age. During this stage, your baby will extend her arms when she is in a supported sitting position. The second part of this reflex occurs between 6 and 7 months of age and involves your child extending her arms to the sides, if she feels as though she is going to fall over. Around 8 months of age, the propping reflex helps your baby catch herself if she falls backward. You can test this reflex by allowing your baby to sit while letting go slightly as she tips in different directions.

Derotational Righting Reflex

The derotational righting reflex generally develops between 4 and 5 months of age. When this reflex appears, you'll notice your child's body following the direction her head turns. Derotational righting sets the stage for helping your child learn to roll over. Test this reflex by allowing your baby time to lie on her back with plenty of interesting stimuli at her sides. This increases her motivation to follow her head with her body.

When to Call a Pediatrician

Children develop at different rates so just because your sister's baby or your first child's reflexes appeared at 5 months doesn't mean your little one's will. However, if your child doesn't seem to be meeting these milestones, it's worth a mention to her pediatrician. He can test to ensure the reflex is developing on both sides evenly and can determine whether the reflex is present at all.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

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