What is Startle Reflex?

I’ve always wondered what the startle reflex is and why newborns have it. So I did a little digging and found out some interesting facts, why it happens, when you can expect your baby to overcome it and a few tips and tricks to manage it. All infants have it and it’s just another one of those fascinating and necessary reflexes that will eventually fade away. For those of you who aren’t really sure what the startle reflex is let me break it down… it’s basically when a baby is well, startled. It usually happens when they hear a loud noise (hence the name). It can also happen if you put a baby down too fast. You’ll know when this happens because they will flinch and open up their eyes, arms and legs as if they were falling or trying to grab onto something.

Nobody is exactly sure why newborns are born with the startle reflex, but there are a couple theories. The first one is that it is simply an instinctive reaction newborns have to cling to their mother for safety.  Another theory is that it is an internal alarm that ensures that a baby responds to danger. That is why they respond with this reflex when they hear a loud sound or sudden movements. Personally, I think it’s a little bit of both. All babies are born with the startle reflex. If they aren’t showing signs of this when they are born they will notice it before you even leave the hospital. It could be a sign of something more serious, such as brain or spinal cord damage. 

Little Lincoln’s startle reflex will start to decrease pretty soon (around six weeks old). That’s normally when his body starts getting used to life outside the womb. When Lincoln turns 4 months his startle reflex will probably completely disappear. In some newborns it can last a little longer, but for most it stops by 4 months. 

The main issue that most parents run into with the startle reflex is that it wakes Lincoln up when he’s sound asleep.  It takes a lot of work to get a baby to sleep, so it can be very frustrating when you go to lay him down and he jumps awake! When you lean over to put him down it makes him feel like he’s falling. One thing you can do to prevent this is to swaddle him. Keep him as close as possible before you lay him down and gently release him as soon as his back and head are resting on the mattress. Putting him all the way down on the mattress while he is already swaddled will help reduce the falling sensation and it’ll help him feel like he is still in your arms after you put him down. Swaddling him will also keep him from waking up and it will also help him stay asleep longer. 

Lastly, you can try to help Lincoln grow out of it quicker by encouraging movement. This reflex along with other reflexes will disappear as Lincoln gains more control of his movements. This will make him less jerky. If you give Lincoln room to stretch everyday it will help his little muscles get stronger which will decrease the startle reflex.

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