Is It Okay That My Baby Roots On Everyone Without Preference

Scary Mommy

What is baby rooting?

“Rooting” in babies refers to a reflex that happens when the corner of their mouths is touched or stroked, often during or just before breastfeeding. When this occurs, a baby will turn their head, open their mouth, and “root” around for a breast or a bottle in order to eat a little something. And given that it’s a reflex, a baby doesn’t need to be taught to root; it’s just something they picked up in the womb. While they’re in there, they also develop their sucking reflex, which is another important part of feeding in the first several weeks of its life.

After around four-to-six months, when the frontal lobe of their cerebral cortex develops, a baby typically gets the hang of this feeding thing and starts voluntarily turning their head towards the nipple — whether it is attached to a bottle or a breast. And yes, of course, it’s super cute when they do it. Honestly, though, it’s not unlike the way you try to find the straw for your iced coffee with your lips before getting enough caffeine in the morning (which, we’re sure you’ll agree, is decidedly less cute).

How can you test the rooting reflex in babies?

Unsure of whether your baby has developed their rooting reflex? Just gently stroking their cheek or mouth is a simple way to test it out. If they’re ready to root, they’ll turn their little head towards your finger or look like they’re “rooting” around for it from side to side.

When does the rooting reflex develop?

Babies are born knowing how to locate their food (your breasts) and how to access it (how to suck/drink). But when does it kick in? At around 28 to 30 weeks, your baby will develop this rooting reflex — so, you won’t have to worry about guiding their mouths toward your nipple.

Your child’s rooting reflex happens first, and then their sucking reflex goes into effect once your nipple touches the roof of their mouths.

Here are some developmental timelines to keep in mind:

  • The sucking reflex develops by at least 36 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Rooting reflex is developed by at least four months of pregnancy.
  • Grasp reflex develops by at least 26 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Moro, a startle reflex, is usually developed after five to six months of pregnancy.

What is “normal” when it comes to the rooting reflex?

As you know, a big part of parenting involves wondering (and possibly stressing) about whether your baby is developing on schedule. This is a question that comes up frequently related to the rooting reflex. For example, while most babies are born with the rooting reflex, it can take longer to show up in some infants. The rooting reflex typically kicks in between weeks 28 and 30 of pregnancy, so it may initially be an issue for premature babies born before that point. If that’s the case, you can hand-express milk for them or guide their mouth towards a nipple until they’re able to locate it on their own.

On the other end of things, if a baby continues rooting beyond six months, it’s called a “retained rooting reflex.” This could potentially lead to issues, including:

  • Baby’s tongue laying forward
  • Extreme or hypersensitivity around the mouth
  • Facing difficulty with solid foods and food textures
  • Thumb sucking
  • Speech and articulation difficulties
  • Issues in chewing and swallowing of food
  • Drooling Hormone imbalance.

If you’re worried about your baby’s rooting reflex (whether it hasn’t yet developed, or has stuck around a little too long), bring it up with your pediatrician at baby’s next well visit.

How is rooting different from sucking?

You might be thinking, Hmm, rooting sounds a lot like sucking or suckling. And, really, the initial mechanics aren’t terribly different — but the differences between the two allow them to serve two distinct purposes. The rooting reflex, which comes first, refers to your baby’s instinctive ability to find a nipple (whether it’s yours or on a bottle). The sucking reflex kicks in when the roof of a baby’s mouth is touched. It is a baby’s instinct to draw the nipple into their mouth and contract the muscles of the lip and mouth so as to make a partial “vacuum.” That vacuum allows them to extract milk.

What are some other examples of newborn reflexes?

In addition to rooting, your newborn has a whole arsenal of reflexes up their sleeve.

They include:

  • Moro or startle reflex
  • Stepping reflex
  • Palmar grasp
  • Tonic neck reflex
  • Blinking reflex
  • Gag reflex C
  • ough reflex
  • Sneeze reflex
  • Knee-jerk reflex
  • Orienting reflex
  • Yan reflex
The Rooting Reflex in Babies

What is the rooting reflex?

Think of the rooting reflex as a baby’s tracking device for food. A gentle stroke on your newborn’s cheek near her mouth causes her to turn her head in the direction of the touch. She’ll open her mouth, ready to suck at a breast or on a bottle. Usually, of course, the rooting reflex means your baby is hungry, especially if it’s accompanied by other “feed me” cues, including sucking on her hand or your shirt, sucking on her lip or tongue, sticking her tongue out, licking her lips or making lip-smacking sounds, opening her mouth and even fussiness. Any or all of those signs of hunger can mean it’s time to start breastfeeding your baby or giving her a bottle.

But rooting doesn’t always signal that a baby needs to be fed. While some newborns only root when they’re hungry, some do it when they’re gassy and others root for no apparent reason at all. If your baby is doing lots of rooting but is getting the nourishment she needs, she may just want to suck on something in between meals. Check with your pediatrician about offering her a pacifier to satisfy those sucking urges about three or four weeks after your baby has gotten the hang of breastfeeding.

How long does the rooting reflex last?

Like the sucking reflex, the rooting reflex develops when your little one is still a baby-to-be in utero, usually by around 32 to 36 weeks of pregnancy, give or take (though it might be earlier). Although your baby is born with the rooting reflex, it may take longer to actually elicit the response for the first few days. But it gets stronger in the first week or so.

The rooting reflex usually goes away when your baby is about 3 or 4 months old. As she gets older and develops more skills, your little one is able to control her movements better so they’re not as jerky or involuntary. Her thinking skills develop too, so there’s more connection between thought and action (“Let me take a swipe at that ball!”). That’s the reason these newborn reflexes, including the rooting reflex, disappear.

What triggers the rooting reflex?

At your baby’s first checkup (as well as at her other early well visits), the doctor will test these newborn reflexes, including the rooting reflex. Why? These twitchy responses are signs that your baby’s nervous system is developing exactly as it should.

Rooting reflex triggers are pretty simple: Stroke your baby’s cheek near the corner of her mouth, and she’ll turn her head, open her mouth, and thrust out her tongue or make sucking noises. What she’s really looking for is a source of food — your breast or a bottle. You can also elicit the rooting reflex yourself when you’re nursing. If your baby turns away, gently touch the side of the cheek nearest to you. She’ll turn back to your breast. Then you can tickle your baby’s lips with your nipple to get her to open wide and latch on.

What’s the difference between the rooting reflex and the sucking reflex?

While they’re both feeding cues and come into play when you breastfeed or bottle-feed, the rooting reflex and the sucking reflex are different. The rooting reflex helps your baby find the milk and the sucking reflex helps her get the milk into her body. The way they’re triggered is different too. Sometimes all you have to do to trigger the rooting reflex is stroke the corner of your baby’s mouth or her cheek with your finger.

To trigger the sucking reflex, your finger or nipple has to touch the roof of your little one’s mouth. Premature and full-term babies also sometimes have less developed sucking reflexes than rooting reflexes because learning to suck, swallow and breathe is a pretty complex maneuver — whereas rooting tends to be simpler to master. All babies learn how to both root and suck eventually, though.

When to call the doctor

Doctors are usually the ones to discover if a reflex is missing, or seems weak in some way, since checking baby reflexes are part of the hospital’s newborn screening tests. That said, you can look for the rooting reflex yourself (and you probably have, during breastfeeding). Just remember that if you don’t get the response you’re looking for, your baby may be fussy or tired, so try again later or on another day.

But be on the lookout for these signs and mention them to your pediatrician:

  • If the rooting reflex goes away before 3 or 4 months and then comes back
  • If baby’s rooting behaviors when she’s awake last beyond 6 months

Both could be signs of developmental delays or other neurological issues, or may be nothing at all. But it’s better to know for sure so you can get the proper diagnosis and care sooner rather than later if there is a problem. In the meantime, enjoy watching all your baby’s reflexes and jerky gestures. Soon those movements will become smoother and more coordinated, and she’ll show off her smarts in many different yet adorable ways.

Firstcry Parenting: Understanding Rooting Reflex in Babies

Giving birth to a baby is a strenuous process, and if you’re becoming a mom for the first time, then there are a lot of new changes coming your way. In the first few weeks after giving birth, you’ll learn about your newborn’s reactions. When your little one is born, you will notice that most of his activities during the first few weeks are either a reflex or are stimuli-induced. For example, your baby’s automatic reflex when you put your finger in their mouth is to suck on the finger. These reflexes help your baby navigate the world and the changes in her life.

What Is Rooting Reflex?

One of the critical reflexes that your baby is born with is called the rooting reflex. When you stroke your baby’s cheek or mouth, it will prompt your baby to turn her head toward that direction. This is known as the rooting reflex and is an essential reflex that will help your baby in finding the nipple during feeding. Your baby will, at first, root her head from side to side trying to find the nipple. By three to four weeks, she will turn her head and position the mouth to feed.

How to Test the Rooting Reflex in Infants

It is essential to test your baby’s reflexes and gauge if they are strong, especially the rooting reflex. Your baby’s health care provider will first lay your baby on a soft padded bed, followed by gently stroking her cheek or mouth. Your little one will react positively by turning her head toward the side where the stroking came from. Your baby will then continue this action by opening her mouth in search of the nipple.

How Does the Rooting Reflex Work?

A newborn’s rooting reflex is also known as the search reflex, as it is probably nature’s way of assisting babies search for their source of food, the nipple or the feeding bottle. This involuntary stimulus of your baby will help them open their mouth, whenever the action associated with it is initiated, i.e. stroking of the cheeks or mouth. Parents, you need to be careful as sometimes you might mistake this movement as a sign that your baby is hungry, despite having fed her and her stomach being full.

How Long Do Infants Have the Rooting Reflex?

The rooting reflex lasts for about three to four months, as your baby is adjusting to their new reflexes and getting accustomed to the stimulus associated with them. It will disappear gradually, but don’t worry if your baby takes a few more months to stop reacting to the stimulus.

What Is Retained Rooting Reflex?

Rooting reflex in babies disappears after about four months. However, if it does not disappear, it is known as a retained rooting reflex. Usually, a retained neonatal reflex (be it rooting reflex, or any other), signifies developmental delays.

Symptoms of Retained Rooting Reflex

When babies do not stop responding to their rooting reflexes, there can be many issues that may arise. Some of them are:

  • The baby’s tongue may lay forward
  • Extreme or hypersensitivity around the mouth
  • Facing difficulty with solid foods and food textures
  • Thumb sucking
  • Speech and articulation difficulties Issues in chewing and swallowing of food
  • Drooling
  • Hormone imbalance

What If the Rooting Reflex is Absent in Babies?

The lack of proper rooting reflex integration can contribute to many issues and difficulties as your baby grows up. Problems related to speech, writing, eating disorders, and hormonal imbalance may arise. If the child does not surpass these reflex stimuli, it could signal some damage in the nervous system or the brain.

What Causes Absence of the Rooting Reflexe?

As the absence of rooting reflex in babies can lead to many issues, there has been a lot of research on the reasons for babies not having a proper rooting reflex.

  • Premature birth
  • Neurological deficit
  • Neurological injury
  • Central nervous system damage from maternal drug ingestion

You always need to be alert to how your baby responds to different actions and stimulus, as it will help you understand how your baby is developing their senses and their reflexes. Taking care of a newborn can be challenging, but there is a lot of information available to help parents learn and prepare for this phase.

In case, you see that your baby is not reacting to your touch or you are concerned about your baby’s health, reach out to a pediatrician to address your concerns.

Rooting and Sucking Reflex

We hear a lot about tongues causing problems with nursing and later on speech, but what about the rooting and sucking reflexes? Both reflexes are there to help an infant find food and feed. They are two of the more common primitive reflexes. Primitive reflexes are a group of reflexes that are present during the early stages of infanthood and should be gone (integrated) within the first year of life. If the rooting and sucking reflexes are overactive or underactive, they can make nursing more difficult. If one or both of those reflexes are retained past 4 months they can also lead to speech and eating problems. Both of these reflexes emerge between 18 and 28 weeks in utero and should be fully integrated by the time the infant is four months.

The sucking reflex consists of sucking movements by the lips when they are stroked or stimulated. The rooting reflex is elicited by a light touch to the cheek or around the edge of the mouth. The rooting response is for the infant to open its mouth and the tongue to protrude on the same side that is stimulated. Both reflexes are important for the infant to be able to eat. Sucking and rooting reflexes help to develop mouth movements and muscles for eating and, later on, speech. By four months infants should have developed the movements and muscles to no longer need the reflex and allow the reflex to be integrated. However, if the reflex doesn’t integrate, it can lead to problems that make eating and speech difficult.

Children with eating disorders aggravated by a Rooting Reflex will have a constant urge to have something in their mouth, yet are often sensitive to textures. They end up being the ones that are always chewing on something plastic, drooling, or struggling to form their words properly. The Retained Rooting Reflex can cause the tongue to lie too far forward in the mouth. This can cause difficulty swallowing and chewing their food.

Retained Rooting/Sucking Reflex Symptoms:

  • Tongue lies too far forward
  • Hypersensitive around mouth
  • Difficulty with textures and solid foods
  • Thumb sucking Speech and articulation problems
  • Difficulty swallowing and chewing
  • Dexterity problems when talking

Rooting and Sucking reflexes are closely related to the palmar grasp reflex which is another primitive reflex. The palmar grasp reflex is a reflex that causes the hands to close when stroked or stimulated. Because these reflexes are closely related, the hand and mouth can affect each other.

For instance, it can cause speech problems when writing or poor penmanship when chewing on something like gum. If you think you may have the rooting and or sucking reflex, you should get it checked by a professional. A regiment of simple exercise can help the reflex integrate. Integrating retained primitive reflexes help to reduce and or eliminate the symptoms associated with them.

Rooting Reflex In Babies: Why It Is So Important

Babies are born with a number of reflexes or involuntary movements. One such reflex is the rooting reflex in babies, which develops in the womb. The rooting reflex usually starts to develop at around 28 to 30 weeks of gestation. Which is why, babies who are born very prematurely (before 28 weeks) may not yet have their rooting reflex.

What is rooting reflex in babies

The rooting reflex in babies kicks in when the cheek or corner of your baby’s mouth is stroked or touched. The baby will turn his or her head and open his or her mouth to follow and “root” in the direction of the stroking. The rooting reflex helps your baby find the breast or bottle to start feeding. This reflex usually lasts about 4 months.

Your baby will, at first, root his or her head from side to side trying to find the nipple. By three to four weeks, your baby will simply turn the head and position the mouth to feed. The rooting reflex can be a great help with latching on your newborn baby. When you’re ready to breastfeed, stroke your little one’s cheek or lip with your fingers or your nipple. When he or she turns towards you and opens the mouth, latch him or her onto your breast.

How is the rooting reflex in babies different from the sucking reflex?

Both the rooting reflex and sucking reflex are linked, and are important for your baby to feed. The rooting reflex happens first, allowing your baby to move towards the stimulus and find your (breast or bottle) nipple. The sucking reflex on the other hand, is triggered when the roof of a newborn baby’s mouth is touched with your finger, nipple or even with a bottle nipple. When this area is stimulated, your baby will begin to “suck” or drink.

If you’re concerned about your little one’s reflexes or notice that he or she isn’t latching, rooting, or sucking well, do consult your pediatrician or a lactation consultant.

Retained rooting reflex

Rooting reflex in babies usually disappears after about 4 months. In some cases, it might last longer. However, if it does not disappear, it is known as ‘retained’ rooting reflex. A retained neonatal reflex is usually a sign of developmental delay. If the reflexes continue into toddlerhood or beyond they can actually start to cause problems.

For example, if the rooting reflex is retained, there may be hypersensitivity around the lips and mouth. The tongue may remain too far forward, resulting in speech and articulation problems, drooling, and difficulty in swallowing and chewing. The child may be a fussy eater or thumb sucker.

Social or learning problems associated with retained rooting reflex are:

  • Difficulty with solid foods
  • Messy eaters and dribbling
  • Poor articulation
  • Poor manual dexterity
Definition/Introduction: Rooting Reflex

The rooting reflex is one of the involuntary primitive motor reflexes, which are also known as the frontal release reflexes, that are mediated by the brainstem. It initiates when the corner of an infant’s mouth is stimulated. When the mouth is touched or stroked, the newborn will turn his or her head towards the stimulus and open the mouth with tongue thrusting. The rooting reflex is present at birth (approximately 28 week gestation) and lasts about 4 to 6 months until the frontal lobe of the cerebral cortex develops and suppresses the primitive motor reflexes. As the frontal lobe matures, the primitive reflexes are replaced with voluntary motor functions. The age when each primitive reflex disappears varies. For example, the plantar grasp reflex disappears after about 9 to 12 months.

The rooting reflex is essential for survival and growth as it helps the newborn find the source of food (breast or bottle) and initiate feeding.[3] It is important to differentiate between the rooting reflex and the sucking reflex, which is also involved in nutritional intake. While the rooting reflex occurs when the corner of a baby’s mouth is stimulated, the sucking reflex initiates when the roof of his or her mouth is stimulated. The sucking reflex usually appears around 30 to 35 weeks. The sucking reflex is responsible for the coordination of breathing with swallowing, which starts to develop around 37 weeks.[4] During swallowing, epiglottic closure temporarily interrupts breathing and prevents food from entering the lungs and causing pulmonary aspiration.

Issues of Concern

Although the rooting reflex disappears typically after 4 to 6 months, its persistence after the expected resolution period may suggest congenital cerebral injury. Multiple reflexive abnormalities may be observed with the rooting reflex, as they are commonly regulated by the frontal lobe. Hyperreflexia responses may suggest neonatal withdrawal after in utero exposure to maternal substance abuse, such as heroin or opiate medications. Recurrence of the reflexes in adults suggests central nervous system pathologies. It may be related to neuronal loss related to normal aging or dementia. Persistence or reappearance of primitive reflexes may serve as an early sign of neurological dysfunction. Further testing should be performed to detect any underlying conditions. Early detection of disease will allow providers to plan out interventions promptly and prevent or slow down the progression of the disease.

Clinical Significance Pediatric

The persistence of the rooting reflex commonly with other primitive reflexes after 4 to 6 months may suggest congenital cerebral palsy. If the rooting reflex persists, the infant may have drooling and a tongue that sits too forward in the mouth. The child will have difficulty swallowing and chewing because of the dysfunctional tongue. Other clinical manifestations include hypotonic or hypertonic muscle tone, asymmetric posture and gait, and delayed developmental milestones. The persistence of primitive reflexes in infancy may also be an early sign of cognitive-developmental delay or autism. Patients with cerebral palsy often develop other conditions, such as learning disability, seizures, and visual or hearing impairment.

The trigeminal cranial nerve (CN 5), which is responsible for facial sensation, is involved in the rooting reflex. In an infant with an intact CN 5, stroking or touching the corner of his or her mouth will initiate the rooting reflex. If the infant has CN 5 dysfunction, it may result in the absence of the rooting reflex. Congenital trigeminal anesthesia is a rare condition but can significantly impact multiple aspects of neonatal health.[12][13] Corneal epithelial injuries are common clinical manifestations because the afferent limb of the corneal reflex is innervated by the first branch of the CN 5. In contrast, the efferent limb of the reflex is innervated by the facial nerve (CN 7).[14] With the inability to blink appropriately, infants are at higher risk of recurrent corneal epithelial injuries. Loss of facial sensation and decreased lacrimation are also possible clinical manifestations.[15] In a 2002 study to evaluate the development of the corneal reflex in healthy full-term babies, 190 babies were examined in the nursery, and 200 babies were examined in the outpatient clinic. The babies in the nursery ranged between 1 to 3 days of age, and the babies examined in the clinics were ages 1 week to 12 weeks. The study reported that half of the infants developed tactile corneal reflex at 3.5 weeks, and all of the infants developed the corneal reflex at 12 weeks.

Nursing, Allied Health, and Interprofessional Team Interventions

The rooting reflex is crucial to initiate feeding and promote neonatal growth. Clinicians and nurses should perform thorough neonatal neurological examinations to ensure that all primitive reflexes, including the rooting reflex, are intact. The persistence of the reflex after 4 to 6 months may suggest several conditions, including congenital cerebral palsy and autism. The medical community should educate parents to pay close attention to the child and evaluate whether the reflexes disappear after 4 to 6 months. Parents should be reminded to set up a follow-up appointment after the resolution period. Regular visits may help with the early detection of the disease and the prevention of possible complications. If an infant has congenital trigeminal anesthesia, their clinician should refer the patient to an ophthalmologist to prevent serious corneal disease.

View Sorces

Scary Mommy

The Rooting Reflex in Babies

Firstcry Parenting: Understanding Rooting Reflex in Babies

Rooting and Sucking Reflex

Rooting Reflex In Babies: Why It Is So Important

Rooting Reflex: Definition / Introduction