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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Motor development

The neonate has several reflexes (automatic physical responses to external stimulation), including: n the rooting reflex – a tendency to orient the head and mouth towards an object touching the face; n the sucking reflex – a tendency to suck on objects placed in the mouth; n the grasping reflex – a response to stimuli (such as a finger) placed in the open palm; n the Moro reflex – a reaction to sudden loss of support to the neck and head in which the baby thrusts out his arms and legs as if striving for support; and n the stepping reflex – the infant attempts to take ‘steps’ if held upright with feet touching a surface. Some of these reflexes have important benefits. For example, the rooting and sucking reflexes ensure that the normal infant will respond to contact with the mother’s breast by seeking out the nipple and feeding (Widstrom & Thingstrom, 1993). Although biology provides the reflexes, early experience is important insofar as it can affect their manifestation. In one study, neonates who were separated from the mother during the first hour after birth were less likely to demonstrate correct sucking techniques, and babies whose mothers were sedated during the birth did not suck at all during the first two hours (Righard & Alade, 1990).

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