What is moro reflex?
Babies are born with several reflexes intended to help them survive during their first few months. One of the most important is the Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex. This involuntary response is normal in infants, and doctors will check to make sure it is there after delivery and in follow-up visits.
In most cases, the Moro reflex begins to disappear about three months after birth. After 6 months, the reaction should be completely gone for most infants.
Signs of the moro reflex in babies
The Moro reflex is a simple physical reaction, so it's easy to identify.
1. Extended arms and legs
The baby’s arms and legs will reach out to the sides, with palms facing up. The baby may cry for a minute in this initial response stage.
2. Arms and legs drawn In
The baby will pull all their limbs closer to their body. This may look like an embrace or an adaptation of the fetal position.
Causes of the moro reflex
The Moro reflex is natural and should be expected in newborns. It is the sign of a healthy nervous system. The response is triggered by a startling event, such as changes in noise, light, or sudden movement.
While parents can take steps to avoid needlessly prompting the reflex, it’s impossible to avoid it altogether. Still, it helps to understand the most common triggers, which include the following:
Babies, like adults, are easily startled by loud and unexpected noises. Volume is not always the determining factor in whether the Moro reflex occurs, however. If noises are both loud and sudden, they are more likely to spark a significant reaction.
Sudden changes in light intensity can trigger the Moro reflex. Examples could include turning on bright lights or opening the window in a previously dark room.
Sudden movements during breastfeeding or other interactions may spark the Moro reflex. Babies can also trigger the reaction themselves as they move their arms or legs.
Changes in altitude
The Moro reflex often occurs as babies are moved from one position to the next. For example, many parents inadvertently trigger the reflex when setting down babies to nap in cribs or bassinets. The change in altitude sparks a falling sensation, which, in turn, prompts the reflex and may wake the baby.
When to see the doctor about the moro reflex
While the Moro reflex is important in the first few months of life, it gradually subsides as infants grow.
You should also see a doctor if the reflex appears to only affect one side of the body, as this may be a sign of a brain injury, shoulder injury, or spinal cord damage.
Medical attention is typically not needed for a strong Moro reflex, which ordinarily diminishes with time. If, however, the reflex still seems strong after 6 months, a visit with a physician may be worth considering.
Diagnosing the moro reflex
When checking for the Moro reflex, most physicians use a test known as the head drop. During this test, the doctor mimics the sensation of falling by raising, and then slowly lowering, the baby’s head below the level of the body.
Treatments for moro reflex
With most babies, the Moro reflex does not need to be addressed. This reflex is crucial for newborns and is nothing to be concerned about. If the reflex does not begin to subside over time, however, you can take measures to prevent babies with especially strong reflexes from waking themselves.
Swaddling is one of the most popular and effective solutions for addressing concerns associated with the Moro reflex. This practice limits the reflex's impact on sleeping infants, who may wake themselves with sudden limb movements. To use this technique effectively, swaddle infants tightly and keep their arms contained.
Because another common trigger is a change in movement, using slow movements, such as when putting a baby in their crib, can reduce the likelihood of triggering the response.
The Moro reflex can also be limited by controlling infants’ environments. Key strategies for doing so include:
- Dimming the lights
- Limiting loud noises
- Using a white noise machine while babies are sleeping
- Avoiding sudden movements while nursing or feeding with bottles
- Moving slowly and purposefully when changing a baby's position or location
- After Salmonella Cases Double in a Week, Cantaloupe Recall Expanded
- Soccer 'Heading' Tied to Declines in Brain Function
- Smoking Tobacco Plus Weed Greatly Raises Odds for Emphysema
- COVID Vaccines Curbed Pandemic-Linked Surge in Preemie Births
- Could a 'Brain Coach' Help Folks at Higher Risk for Alzheimer's?
- More Health News »
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards: "What to know about the Moro reflex."
International Journal of Pediatrics: "The Grasp Reflex and Moro Reflex in Infants: Hierarchy of Primitive Reflex Responses."
MedlinePlus: "Moro Reflex."
StatPearls: "Moro Reflex."
Rhythmic Movement Training International: "The Reflexes - Moro Reflex."
Stanford Children's Health: "Newborn Reflexes."
Top How Do I Get Rid of My Baby’s Moro Reflex Related Articles
Babies QuizTake the Babies Quiz to learn what milestones and developments you can expect from your baby’s first year.
Baby's First Year: Milestones Month by MonthWhen do babies learn to crawl? Start teething? Learn about major milestones in your baby's first months. Get tips on how to help baby learn, grow, and develop into a healthy toddler.
Baby's 1st Yr SlideshowWhat developmental milestones can you expect to see during baby's first year? Find out when babies learn to smile, laugh, crawl, and talk.
Better Ways to Feed Your BabyWhat tips and tricks help you introduce healthy foods to your baby's diet. Learn techniques for feeding that work for infants and young children, why babies are such messy eaters, and how your child learns by eating new foods and exploring vegetables, fruits, and other healthy meals.
Breastfeeding (and Formula Feeding)It's important to know whether you will breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby prior to delivery, as the breasts' ability to produce milk diminishes soon after childbirth without the stimulation of breastfeeding. Breast milk is easily digested by babies and contains infection-fighting antibodies and cholesterol, which promotes brain growth. Formula-fed babies actually need to eat somewhat less often since formula is less readily digested by the baby than human milk. This article explores the advantages and disadvantages of both forms of feeding.
How Can I Treat My Baby's Rashes Naturally?A baby may get rashes due to numerous causes. Try to pin down the cause of rashes in the case of your baby. Is it a diaper rash? Is it a reaction to the baby oil? Is it eczema due to dry skin? Is it a viral infection?
How Do You Decongest a Baby?Nose and chest congestion are a common occurrence in babies. You can decongest your baby with rest, positioning, hydration, a warm bath, and other home remedies. Most cases of nasal congestion are harmless, but in a few cases where the chest is congested and the baby is not taking feeds, is dull, or has a high fever, it is prudent to seek medical consultation.
Crying & Colic SlideshowLearn top parenting tricks for calming crying, colicky, and fussy newborns and babies.