Baby Rooting Reflex


Reflexes are nothing but involuntary movements or automatic actions. We will be surprised who taught our little ones to suck, grasp and walk. Most of these reflexes are programmed in their brain when they were in the womb. Babies are born with nearly 70 reflexes. One such reflex is the rooting reflex. Learn what it is and why it is important.

Last Updated: 23 October 2020

Baby Rooting Reflex
Baby Rooting Reflex
Newborn reflexes

Some of the inborn reflexes seen in babies are listed below:


Age when it appears

Age when it disappears



2 months

Sucking reflex

36 weeks of pregnancy, noticed in newborn babies, may be delayed in premature babies

4 months


Birth, may be delayed in premature babies

4 months

Moro reflex


5 to 6 months

Tonic neck reflex


5 to 7 months


26 weeks of pregnancy

5 to 6 months


What is Rooting Reflex?

In the early phase of your infant’s life, some movements are very spontaneous and happen as a part of baby’s normal activity. Your doctor might check these reflexes to find out how well your baby’s brain and nervous system are functioning.

Rooting reflex is an important reflex which helps your baby to locate and grasp your nipple. This reflex happens when you touch or stroke the corner of your baby’s mouth. Your baby will automatically turn her head and open her mouth to follow the direction of the stroking. More specifically this reflex helps your baby to identify your breasts or bottle to start feeding, even in the dark. You can notice this reflex till four months. When your baby does not respond to your stroke, it means he is not hungry. By four months of time, rooting becomes a voluntary action than a reflex.

When rooting reflex develop?

Rooting and sucking reflex develop in the womb. Some babies have strong reflexes while others might take time to develop these reflexes. A rooting reflex is believed to develop between 28 to 30 weeks of pregnancy. Babies who are born very premature (before 28 weeks) might not have rooting reflex. Premature babies require guidance until they are able to locate the nipple by themselves.  

In some cases, premature babies are fed in neonatal intensive care units by methods like intravenous, feeding tube or finger feeding.  Until your baby is ready to breastfeed on their own, your doctors and nurses might help you with a feeding plan for your baby.

Babies who are bottle fed may search from side to side in search of a nipple. A gentle stroke or touching their cheeks may make them to turn towards the direction of a bottle.

Most babies start to breastfeed on their own. While some babies may take time to develop this rooting reflex. Your pediatrician will refer you to a lactation consultant to sort out the issue.

Retained rooting reflex

Rooting reflex disappears around four months. In some babies this reflex does not disappear and it is termed as retained rooting reflex. Retained rooting reflex may be a sign of developmental delays.  The common symptoms of retained rooting reflex are:

·         Tongue lies too far forward

·         Hypersensitivity around the mouth

·         Difficulty with texture and solid foods

·         Thumb sucking

·         Problems in speech and articulation

·         Difficulties in swallowing and chewing

·         Dexterity problems when talking

·         Drooling

·         Hormone imbalances and thyroid


Absence of rooting reflex

 When your babies grow up, the lack of rooting reflex may contribute to many issues like speech, writing, eating disorders and hormone problems. The causes of rooting reflex disintegration may be premature birth, neurological problems and central nervous system damage from maternal drug ingestion.

Understanding the inborn reflexes is very important to track your baby’s growth and development.




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