Persistent birth reflexes in children and adults

What are birth reflexes? Reflexes are unavoidable reactions triggered by certain stimuli that fall into the same pattern. It starts with development in the womb. All the embryo has are a series of reflexes that help it survive and develop. These reflexes are neonatal reflexes that help the baby with the birthing process, breastfeeding, and getting a handle on things. They are the building blocks of development for gross and fine motor skills. Reflexes are automatically driven by the environment. As the brain is better developed, these reflexes are no longer necessary and the developed brain activity inhibits these actions. This is a normal and essential stage of development. Due to the consequences of birth trauma, developmental disorders, chemicals in the body, shock and trauma early in life, these reflexes can persist: the nervous system responds inappropriately.

Fourteen birth reflexes

  1. Withdrawal reflex
  2. Moro reflex
  3. Sucking reflex
  4. Rooting reflex
  5. Babkin reflex
  6. Grasping reflex
  7. Plantar reflex
  8. Asymmetric neck reflex
  9. Tonic labyrinth reflex
  10. Sagittal labyrinth reflex
  11. Walking and heel reflex
  12. Suprapubic reflex
  13. Symmetrical neck reflex
  14. Spinal galant reflex

Withdrawal reflex

This reflex ensures that your baby starts breathing immediately after birth. If the reflex is preserved, children can be anxious and shy, but outbursts of anger can also occur.
Retention of the reflex can lead to the following symptoms:

  • unreal fear
  • reduced stress resistance
  • hypersensitivity to touch, sound or facial changes
  • temper tantrums
  • an aversion to changes or surprises
  • poor adaptability
  • fatigue
  • social embarrassment anxiety
  • holding your breath
  • insecurity, lack of self-confidence and shyness
  • a negative attitude
  • an excessive clinginess/difficulty accepting affection
  • compulsive cravings, obsessive behavior or compulsive disorder
  • not wanting to try new activities, especially those that involve comparison
  • immediate muscle paralysis during stress
  • difficulty thinking and moving at the same time

Moro reflex

This is the alarm reflex. If the reflex is preserved, hypersensitive behavior is observed. A newborn is not yet developed well enough to decide whether a certain circumstance is life-threatening or not. It is protected by a revolutionary reflex for everything! A reflex for physical and hormonal events, providing coverage for the most common cases and events.
Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • impulsive behavior
  • fear
  • inappropriate behavior
  • hyperactivity
  • hypersensitivity to light, sound or movement
  • hypersensitivity to colorants in food or drinks
  • disorders in the adrenal glands
  • are easily distracted
  • concentration disorders
  • emotional thoughtlessness

Sucking reflex

The newborn pushes his tongue forward to suck the nipple. After about 3 to 4 months, the reflex disappears and the tongue is pushed back to swallow the food down.
If the sucking reflex is maintained, the tongue will first slide forward instead of back. The tongue continuously bumps against the front teeth. This causes a narrow face and protruding upper teeth, a common problem seen by orthodontists. Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • chewing and swallowing problems
  • speech and articulation problems
  • a protruding tongue when writing or drawing
  • overbite of the upper teeth
  • difficulty chewing and doing something else at the same time

Rooting reflex

A light touch on the cheek, at the edge of the mouth, causes the baby to turn its head and open its mouth. The tongue will prepare for sucking. The baby opens his mouth and looks for the nipple or teat.
If the reflex is retained, hypersensitivity around the corners of the mouth and lips may be present. The tongue protrudes too much, which can cause speech problems, drooling, or difficulty chewing or swallowing. It is often seen in fussy eaters or thumb suckers. Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • hypersensitivity of the corners of the mouth
  • drool
  • speech problems
  • difficulty chewing or speaking
  • difficulty chewing and doing something else at the same time
  • hormonal disorders or imbalance
  • a protruding tongue

Babkin reflex

There is a connection between the mouth and the hands in the first months of life: kneading movements of the hands during suckling from the breast. Mouth and hand movements simultaneously support the milk let-down reflex during feeding. In adults, this is a two-way response: hand movements can influence speech and mouth movements can affect the hands. This bandage creates muscle tension in the mouth during hand stimulation.
As a result of this reflex, a capal tunnel syndrome can develop. Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • opening the jaw when using scissors
  • clenching of the jaw when grasping an object
  • difficulty using a spoon or fork
  • wanting to bite others
  • holding a pen too tightly
  • muscle tension in the face
  • tense calf muscles

Grasping reflex

As the baby grows and develops, the pincer grip will begin to develop. This grip must be present before finer motor skills can develop, where each finger can touch the thumb.
When the reflex is preserved, children and adults often have poor handwriting and a poor ability to elaborate or write down their ideas. Copying words is easy, but spelling words is difficult and messy. Uncontrolled movements of the fingers weaken other muscles in the body. The child may become discouraged when playing the piano, for example. Independent finger movements are difficult. Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • clumsiness
  • poor and/or fine motor skills
  • it is difficult to develop ideas on paper
  • poor posture during manual labor
  • poor posture
  • difficulties with spelling and writing
  • holding the pen incorrectly and therefore having unclear handwriting

Plantar reflex

This reflex ensures the coordination and harmony of the small muscles of the foot. As soon as the child starts to walk, steadiness and balance are necessary. If the signals from the sole of the foot no longer reach the brain, hyperextension can occur. Some children may have their toes curl up when they touch the shoe.
If this reflex is retained, balance problems may arise while walking. The child has difficulty keeping up with sporting activities. Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • a bad balance
  • poorly fitting shoes due to curling toes
  • pain in the lower back due to incorrect walking pattern
  • problems with sporting activities
  • ankle twisting or pain in the shin
  • coordination problems while running

Asymmetric neck reflex

The baby needs this reflex during the birth process.
For example, when the baby’s head turns to the left, the left arm and left leg straighten, while the right arm and right leg bend. The eyes then follow the path of the hand. This is the beginning of hand-eye coordination. In the so-called second pivot during birth, the child performs this movement and rotates along with the contractions. ATNR Is a reflex in babies, but normally disappears when the baby is 6 months. Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • visual developmental disorders
  • balance disorders
  • no dominant hand
  • chronic shoulder and neck complaints
  • bad handwriting
  • poor judgment
  • disruption between spoken and written performance
  • Poor bilateral integration (to use two sides of the body) this can be detrimental to sporting activities
  • visual developmental disorders

Tonic labyrinth reflex

This reflex has a forward and a backward variant.
Forward: As the space in the uterus decreases, as the child grows, the back of the fetus is pushed more and more forward – the child’s response is ‘folding up’. This can also be seen in a newborn lying stretched out: if the head is lifted, chin towards the chest, the child moves into a fetal position. Backwards: this occurs during the birth process; the child’s head goes backwards into the birth canal. The child stretches and pushes onto the mother’s diaphragm and cooperates with the birth. This reflex may be visible up to the age of three and a half years (for example: walking on tiptoes with the head tilted back). Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • motion sickness
  • a “weak constitution”
  • orientation disorders
  • poor spatial awareness
  • visual disturbances
  • poor spatial awareness of distance, depth and speed

Sagittal labyrinth reflex

Retention of the reflex makes concentration difficult and very uncomfortable during computer work. The head hangs forward when sitting. Some children sit on their feet and spin around, leading to inattention and hyperactivity.
The SLR has an effect on movement integration, such as during swimming and walking. Dyspraxia is often diagnosed in these children. (Dyspraxia is a motor development disorder that leads to problems in planning and coordinating motor actions. It is a disorder in the correct processing of information by the brain.) Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • concentration disorders
  • difficulties with sporting activities, especially swimming movements
  • slowness in imitating things
  • impatience
  • poor sports performance
  • tiredness while studying or reading
  • bad posture

Walking and heel reflex

Our body adapts our postural muscles (back, abdomen, calves, arms). It doesn’t matter whether we stand on our toes or our heels. These two reflexes help to release tension from the lower leg and allow ankle movement. They also ensure an ideal posture. A reasonable amount of information we absorb from the environment is determined by sight. The position of the head has an enormous influence on our posture. The walking and heel reflex focuses on balance and the connection between vision and movement. Both reflexes ensure the right balance between our movements and what we see. Sometimes both reflexes are present.
Retention of the walking reflex can lead to:

  • tight calf muscles
  • walking on tiptoes like an ostrich
  • pain in the foot or ankle
  • recurring hamstring injuries
  • stiff back muscles
  • poor balance and muscle control
  • visual problems, because the head is bent back and the eyes look upwards

Retention of the heel reflex can lead to:

  • balance problems
  • heel pain
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • heavy heel walking (walking like an elephant)
  • poor core stability
  • visual problems, because the head is bent back and the eyes look upwards

Suprapubic reflex

This reflex is present from birth and is elicited when pressure is detected on the pubic bones. The body responds, tilts the pelvis and extends both legs forward. The opposite pattern is often seen in the upper part of the body, even before the reflex is activated to extend arms and legs and then crawl on all fours.
There appears to be a connection between the suprapubic reflex, pelvic position, bladder and kidney function and the reproductive system. An association is also established in certain parts of the brain: the hypothalamus. This controls body temperature, appetite, libido and glandular activity. Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • pelvic floor problems
  • bladder problems (bedwetting)
  • glucose imbalance
  • hormone fluctuations
  • an incorrect walking pattern
  • wrong body position
  • recurring ankle, hip or shoulder problems

Symmetrical neck reflex

This reflex causes the baby to rise on all fours to start crawling. Before the baby starts to crawl, he is seen sitting in the “cat” position: arms extended and buttocks resting on the lower legs. When the child moves his head down, the arms bend until the head rests on the floor and the buttocks rise into the air. When the head is lifted, the arms straighten and the buttocks drop back onto the legs.
The reflex divides the body into an upper and lower half that works in opposite directions: when the upper half is extended, the lower half can bend and vice versa. This is the moment when the child learns to focus his eyes from far to near and vice versa. child learns to fall and trains balance. The position of the hands far back with the fingers spread and slightly bent is important for the development of the use of the hands, including later for holding a pen or pencil! Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • a monkey-like gait
  • crawling later than normal
  • poor hand and eye coordination
  • and poor posture, which is due to a decrease in muscle tone, especially in the muscles around the spine
  • poor organizational skills, “difficult planner”
  • tendency to hang over the desk
  • eyestrain earlier than normal while focusing

Spinal gallant reflex

If you draw a line with your finger on one side of the spine in a newborn, the hip on that side will pull outward by 45 degrees. If you draw the line on the other side of the spine, the hip will also pull to that side. If you do it on both sides at the same time, the baby will pee. This reflex helps the baby travel through the birth canal during contractions. The reflex may be retained on one side or on both sides.
Retention of the reflex can lead to:

  • concentration problems
  • poor coordination while walking
  • clumsiness
  • inability to sit still
  • bedwetting
  • cannot make smooth movements during sporting activities
  • difficult to sit still
  • restlessness
  • nervousness
  • an increased scoliosis due to bending to one side


Uninhibited or underdeveloped reflexes can cause physical or emotional complaints. A number of therapies that can be followed to maintain learning problems, (mental) development disorders, speech disorders, information processing disorders, language disorders, motor and physical disorders:

  • kinesiology
  • neurodevelopmental therapy
  • chiropractic