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What is the Moro reflex?

everything you need to know for your baby

what is the moro reflex?

What is the Moro reflex?

The Moro reflex is a normal biological response to the unfamiliar stimuli in any newborn’s environment. When the Moro reflex is triggered, a baby feels startled, which can interrupt their sleep and also cause them to exhibit a physical reaction. Researchers say they believe this is a primitive survival instinct meant to alert the infant to its loss of balance, keeping them from losing grip of the mother.

Are the Moro reflex and the startle reflex the same thing?

You may have heard some fellow parents or parenting experts refer to the Moro reflex as the “startle reflex”. These two terms mean the same thing and refer to the same basic phenomenon: a baby is experiencing a natural, startled response as they become accustomed to the world around them.

Unfortunately, whatever you call it, the Moro reflex can prevent infants (and their parents) from getting healthy, restful sleep.

How can I identify the Moro reflex?

You can spot (and understand) the Moro reflex by being empathetic to what your newborn is experiencing.

Research has shown that when the Moro reflex is triggered, an infant experiences a sudden sense of free-falling, and this jolt causes them to stretch their arms out in front of them and then retract them toward their body. You should be able to recognize these arm motions, and also may spot another tell-tale sign of the Moro reflex: it often wakes a baby up from sound sleep.

What triggers the Moro reflex?

Much of what triggers the Moro reflex for your newborn are the same phenomena that might trigger a startled response from you or any person of any age: unexpected auditory or visual stimuli. What this means for a baby is mostly loud noises or unexpected lights or changes in light.

A baby’s Moro reflex can also be triggered by a change from one surface to another, or any other experience that alters the level of support they are feeling.

How does swaddling help the Moro reflex?

Swaddling is one of the most effective ways you can help your baby sleep by providing the soothing warmth, reassuring comfort, and consistent sense of physical support that they yearn for as they transition from life in the womb to life in your home. Swaddling can be intimidating to new parents, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn a simple and safe swaddling technique with our guided swaddling tutorial.

Swaddling keeps the physical experience of bedtime comfortable and consistent for your infant, so they can develop their instincts and physical reflexes healthily while also benefitting from the sleep their ever-changing bodies and minds need. Soft and breathable swaddles are ideal for temperature regulation and comfort during sleep.

How long does the Moro reflex last? When can I stop swaddling?

In most infants, the Moro reflex lasts for the first 3-4 months.  At this point, you may be able to gradually begin to wean your baby off swaddling, though you may still want to keep swaddling your infant if you think it is helping them sleep safely and soundly for other reasons.

Swaddling has many benefits, so just because your baby is aging out of the Moro reflex doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily time to stop swaddling. 

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