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Go with the Flow: How the Babkin Reflex helps your Baby fill their Belly

Updated: Jul 21

The Babkin Reflex helps to stimulate the flow of breast milk while nursing. [1]


Primitive Reflexes chart

What are primitive reflexes?


A reflex is an automatic response to stimuli such as pulling your hand away when touching a hot stove. And humans are full of them. In fact, reflexes begin before your baby is even born. These are called "primitive reflexes". They are your baby's body's way of helping them function in the world after they are born until they can figure out how to operate their body on their own.


Different primitive reflexes control different parts of the body. In order for your baby to survive, they need to eat. The Rooting, Sucking, and Babkin reflexes make that happen. In earlier blogs about Rooting and Sucking Reflexes, you will have learned that the Rooting Reflex opens your babies mouth and turns their head to look for the source of food when their cheek is touched or corner of the mouth is stimulated and the Sucking Reflex helps get the food from the source such as breast or bottle into their belly.


Babkin Reflex chart: When and Why it happens as well as what it looks like

What is the Babkin Reflex?


The Babkin Reflex helps the breast produce more milk when you are breastfeeding. It also helps their brain connect and coordinate hand to mouth connection used later in life when eating. [2] You have seen the Babkin Reflex in action if you have watched and wondered why babies knead the breast like dough or pound on them while feeding.


Chart of issues associated with a retained Babkin Reflexes

What are issues associated with a retained Babkin Reflex?


The Babkin Reflex should turn into voluntary eye-hand-mouth coordination by 4 months. [3] The persistence of the Babkin Reflex is associated, amongst other things, to hand to mouth impulses such as binge eating, oral fixation like chewing on pencils, disarticulate speech, poor ability to communicate needs, poor emotional regulation and addictions. [4] In addition, "When infants suck, there is not only involuntary movement of their hands, but many times their toes and feet curl. When a child with an active Babkin Reflex writes or does other fine motor work, like playing an instrument or using scissors, there will be involuntary movements of the mouth and tongue." [5]


Chart of how to tell if the Babkin Reflex is active

How to test for a retained Babkin Reflex?


You can test to see if your baby has a lingering Babkin Reflex when they are 4 months old by opening their arms to the side and pressing on the center of both palms. If their mouth opens, this reflex is still active.


Chart of what to do about retained primitive reflexes

What can you do about a retain Babkin Reflex?


Active primitive reflexes can have life long affects. So what can you do about it? Awareness is the first step in prevention. Now that you know that retained reflexes can cause issues, you can regularly test for these reflexes. By monitoring, you can tell if they are still active. If so, make an appointment with your pediatrician. If they determine that your baby has any lingering reflexes, they will give you a referral to a specialist. Then meet with a pediatric occupational therapist, developmental optometrist, or speech therapist depending on their needs. Early intervention is the most valuable thing that you can do to help your baby.


Sources:

  1. "The Babkin Reflex", Blomberg Rhythmic Movement Training, https://www.brmtusa.com/the-babkin-reflex

  2. "Retained Primitive Reflexes as a Sign of Brain Imbalance", Brain Balance Centers, https://www.brainbalancecenters.com/blog/retained-primitive-reflexes-sign-brain-imbalance

  3. Yasuyuki Futagi, Keiko Yanagihara, Yukiko Mogami, Tae Ikeda, Yasuhiro Suzuki, "The babkin reflex in infants: clinical significance and neural mechanism", September 2013, National Library of Medicine, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23953951/

  4. Julia Grover-Barrey OTR/L, "Is Pencil Chewing and Shirt Collar Nuzzling a Problem? Babkin Palmomental Retained Reflex May Be the Reason", October 9, 2019, In-Tuned, https://www.in-tunedchild.com/blog/2019/10/7/babkin-palmomental-retained-reflex

  5. "The Babkin Reflex", Blomberg Rhythmic Movement Training, https://www.brmtusa.com/the-babkin-reflex


 

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