One of the many involuntary movements newborns make is the stepping reflex which is also known as Dance reflex or Walking reflex. This is very essential for the baby’s development as it prepares them to take the real steps. However, these motions disappear between 3 and 6 months of age with the majority ending at 4 months. In this article we will be discussing about the stepping reflex in newborns. Let’s read below to find more:
In this article:
Stepping Reflex in Babies: Things Every Parent Should Know
Why Do Babies have Stepping Reflex?
Stepping reflex in babies help and prepare a child to walk by developing the muscles of the leg and feet. If we think practically, it does not serve any purpose just after a baby is born. When the baby is 2-3 months old, it disappears and re-occurs later when the baby is 12-13 months old.
How Long Does it Last in Infants?
A baby may show up signs of stepping reflex when he/she is about 2-3 days old. Thus, stepping reflex at birth is pretty normal. But when the baby gets about 5-6 months old, it disappears and then appears again when the baby is about 12-13 months old, which is right before they start walking.
Does Absence of Stepping Reflex Mean Something?
Though stepping reflex is pretty normal but in some babies, there may be no stepping reflex. There can be a number of reasons for total absence of stepping reflex as well as its recurrence after 4 months of age. Severe neurological deficit at the time of birth and motor nerve injury can be the two reasons.
Also, pre-term babies can have this reflex after 6 weeks of age instead of having bit 2-3 days after birth and that is also normal. It goes away when the baby is 3-4 months old and reappear when the baby is about 12-13 months old.
Babies with cerebral palsy or those with neonatal abstinence syndrome can have absence of stepping reflex. The reason for this could be the drugs like opiates and methadone which are taken by the mother during the time of pregnancy.
There are other primary or archaic reflexes that appear during the first weeks of life. These are as listed below:
Moro Reflex (or startle reflex)
The new born extends his arms, fingers, legs and arch when triggered by a loud noise or other environmental stimuli.
When you touch your new-born’s mouth with your finger, a nipple or a pacifier can prompt your infant to begin sucking.
Tonic Neck Reflex (or fencing reflex)
Your baby is likely to assume the fencing position when you place him on his back. His head will turn with the arm and leg of one side extended and the other arm and leg will be flexed.
This enables your little one to curl his fingers around your finger or even an object, which can be triggered by striking his palm with your finger.
Plantar Grasp (or Babinski reflex)
When you stroke the sole of his foot, he will spread open his toes and turn his foot inward.
How to Assess the Walking Reflex?
It is very simple to examine this. You just have to hold the baby by his armpits and place him upright as if he were standing. In response, the baby should be able to extend his feet and flex his feet and move them alternately just like he is trying to walk.
When to Worry?
The major cause isn’t the loss of reflexes if it occurs in due time. It is perfectly fine to stop reacting instinctively to each stimulus. It is rather the permanence of reflexes that should have disappeared, that causes the alarm as it indicates a delay in the baby’s motor development. If this is the case, it is important that you consult the professionals who can examine the baby and determine which steps are to be followed.
Stepping reflex is very normal in babies. certain illness, birth traumas and medications can all lead to problems with new-born development. Also, in case your little one does not outgrow any of these responses, it can be an indication of brain or nervous system damage. In case, the stepping reflex is absent in your baby it is recommended to consult a doctor in order to determine the cause behind it and follow the procedure as advised by the doctor. in addition, always make sure to support the weight of your new-born’s head and be careful if you decide to try this at home.