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The Rooting Reflex (Also, Hand to Mouth & Tongue Thrust reflexes)

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Published on Aug 5, 2009

Rooting Reflex
The rooting reflex, also called the 'search reflex', is nature's way of helping a baby to find the breast. This reflex is triggered when your newborn baby's cheek is touched or stroked along the side of her mouth. She will turn her head and open her mouth toward the touched side as she seeks something to suck. The rooting reflex usually disappears by around 3 to 4 months of age but in some babies it may last as long as 12 months. The rooting reflex is often mistaken as a sign of hunger.

Hand-to-mouth reflex
Babies also have a hand-to-mouth reflex that goes with the rooting and sucking reflexes. This reflex may be set off by either stroking your baby's cheek or the palm of her hand. The stroking causes your baby to root, her arm to flex and bring her hand to her mouth. Sucking on fingers or hand is often mistaken as a sign of hunger.
Sucking provides comfort for young babies. By around the age of 3 months, as this reflex fades, your baby has gained enough control over her arms to intentionally suck on her fingers and hand. Once she has discovered this skill, she may do it often. When parents first notice an increase in the amount of time their baby sucks their fingers or hand at this age it is often mistaken as a sign of teething.

Tongue thrust
While the tongue thrust or 'extrusion reflex' is present, if a baby's lips are touched her tongue automatically moves forward. Tongue thrust aids feeding from the breast or bottle but not solid foods. This reflex generally fades by around 3 or 4 months of age but for some babies it will remain active for longer. While this reflex is still active, if solid foods are offered it appears like your baby is pushing the food out of her mouth with her tongue. This reflex is often mistaken as dislike of food. Although this is not the case, a tongue thrust is a sign that your baby is not ready to eat solid foods.

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