The rooting reflex

The rooting reflex (RR) is a fascinating developmental milestone that begins even before birth and continues to evolve during infancy. RR is an automatic response in newborns characterized by turning their head toward a touch on their cheek or mouth. When you stroke or touch your baby's cheek or the corner of their mouth, they will instinctively turn their head in that direction, open their mouth, and make sucking motions. By turning towards a

touch, babies instinctively position themselves to find their food source and initiate feeding

The RR starts to develop in utero, typically around the 32nd week of pregnancy. During this time, baby's neurological and sensory systems are maturing rapidly. Once baby is born, the rooting reflex becomes more pronounced and functional. Immediately after birth, and often during the first few weeks of life, you can observe your baby's natural response to touch on their cheek or around their mouth. It’s a reflex, so this is also why they will try to root and latch to dad’s nose or even to grandma’s chest.

The RR is at its strongest during the newborn phase, the first 0-3 months. Babies rely heavily on this reflex to initiate feeding, whether at the breast or with a bottle. As baby's neurological system continues to mature, the rooting reflex gradually integrates with other feeding skills. By around 4 to 6 months of age, babies start to gain more head control and may rely less on the rooting reflex for feeding.

You can actively support baby's RR by:

- Positioning baby close during feeding. Their chin and cheeks should be physical touching your breast and your fingers can touch their cheeks during bottle feeding

- Let baby lay on both of their sides during tummy time, not just on their belly. As the floor triggers the reflex, it helps not only integrate it, but also will eventually help with rolling over and finding toys

- Being responsive to your baby's cues and feeding needs, especially during the early weeks and months.

Have you noticed the rooting reflex in your baby? Share your experiences and insights in the comments below! 💬🍼 #RootingReflex #NewbornDevelopment #ParentingJourney