Irritable Jowl Syndrome (and Other Reflexes)

A baby has many remarkable reflexes that will amaze and impress you and your family.  Put away the Pictionary; babies are far more entertaining, and they won’t annoy you by correctly guessing “Sistine Chapel” when someone merely draws a square. The Moro Reflex occurs when a baby suddenly extends his arms outward as if he thinks he is going to fall.  This reflex, also aptly named The Startle Reflex, can happen when you fail to support the neck and head.  The adult counterpart is THE SNAPPING TURTLE REFLEX, the sudden snapping upward of the head while fighting the desire to nod off during the day.  If you are going to sit through a long and arduous speech, you should take precautions and wear a neck brace.  If you are planning on giving your baby a long and arduous speech, at least be fair and support his neck.

When you touch the palm of your baby’s hand, you will observe The Palmer Grasp Reflex.  Your baby will grasp your finger or an object, prompting parents everywhere to proudly exclaim, “Look at my strong baby!  She’s holding my hand!”  This reflex disappears at about six months, so enjoy entertaining with it while you can.  Plus, that’s about as long as your friends and family will put up with you bragging about your baby’s superpowers.   

Prior to four months of age, a baby will exhibit a Stepping Reflex.  If you place your baby’s feet on a flat surface, he will seem to walk by placing one foot in front of the other.  This reflex is also helpful for those parents who want to brag that their baby can walk at only two months old.  Be careful with this, because you can also make a worm walk by pulling him by a string. 

With the Rooting Reflex, your baby will turn toward you when you stroke his cheek.  I find this amazing, especially since in two years he will run in the opposite direction when you call his name.  The Rooting Reflex disappears by about four months, but it becomes extremely useful when breastfeeding.  Besides being a hunger cue, rooting can be used to turn your baby’s head toward you when it is time to feed.  You can stroke a toddler’s cheek all you want; he’s still not going to eat the broccoli. 

While your baby’s reflexes are fascinating, you will also develop some of your own as a parent:

THE BALLOON REFLEX = the unavoidable gasp, similar to a deflating balloon, that emerges from a mom trying to remain calm as her baby is about to get injured.

THE CANINE REFLEX = the shameless instinct to sniff a baby’s bottom in public to see if his diaper needs changing.

THE GAG REFLEX = the urge to hurl after the initial whiff of an open diaper pail.

THE CLEANER SHRIMP REFLEX = the automatic grazing of a child’s unfinished meal.

THE IRRITABLE JOWL SYNDROME REFLEX = the irritable response of an exhausted parent. 


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