Primitive Reflexes in babies

At birth – we are all equipped with a set of reflexes that enable us to survive. These are called Primitive reflexes, or as we often refer to them, a blueprint for development! Normal childhood development is dependent on the framework of movement from birth to walking. Similarly to when a building is constructed – the key is the foundation and the framework. If one of these components is skipped or done poorly, there are consequences down the line.

Primitive reflexes generally all integrate between 6-12 months, once the reflex integrates, it allows for a new skill to emerge. For example the rooting reflex (turning the head to the breast to feed) should integrate (disappear) around 3-4 months of age. If this reflex persists, the infant may have trouble with facial hypersensitivity, difficulties in chewing and swallowing or poor speech articulation.

If a primitive reflex does not integrate on time, the body is forced to use less complex and efficient forms of movement, organisation and the interpretation of input by using compensatory mechanisms. This is seen as a structural weakness, or an immaturity of the central nervous system. This can have a profound impact on development on the early years through to adulthood.

Dr. Jemima Nelson’s role as a Paediatric Chiropractor is to assess these primitive reflexes to ensure that they are not negatively impacting development or impacting the child from reaching their milestones.

Children with poorly integrated primitive reflexes can present with;

  • Poor balance and coordination
  • Tentative in movements – for example climbing and jumping
  • Inability to sit still
  • Difficulty with impulse control
  • Some learning difficulties
  • Emotionally labile
  • Motion sickness
  • Attention and Concentration issues
  • Reduced Postural Control (particularly seated posture at mat time and at the table)
  • Challenges with Balance and Gross Motor Confidence
  • Difficulty with Reading and Scanning across a page
  • Challenges with Repeated Copying from the board
  • The goal of treatment is to promote integration of the reflex, through a combination of musculoskeletal treatment modalities and exercise programs.

If you would like to have your child assessed by our Paediatric Chiropractor Dr. Jemima Nelson, please contact our clinic on 07 3716 0199 or book online here.

Written by Dr. Jemima Nelson
B. Science/Psychology + Masters Chiropractic
Diplomate in Chiropractic Paediatrics Australia