The Importance of the Neck Reflex during a Baby's Development

26 March, 2018

A baby’s reflexes are known as involuntary automated responses to different stimuli. One of the most important is the neck reflex.

Knowing about it will help you understand every posture and reaction that your child makes.

One of the first aspects that pediatricians focus on at the moment of birth are the baby’s reflexes. A baby’s control over their body will depend on their ability to adapt to their environment.

These automated responses are divided into two types: primary reflexes and secondary reflexes. The neck reflex is one of the most important primary reflexes that babies present.

What is the neck reflex?

The neck reflex, also known as the tonic neck reflex, is observed when a relaxed baby turns their face to one side while stretching out their arm.

The other arm remains flexed at the elbow, which gives it the appearance of a defense stature. Pediatricians call it the fencing position.

It can be noted that when a baby is performing this reflex, the arm which is in the direction where the child looks, will be stretched out and the palm will remain open.

In the other arm, which is contracted, the palm will form a fist. This involuntary reflex can be observed on both sides of the baby’s body.

The Importance of the Neck Reflex during a Child's Development

Types of neck reflexes

There are two types of neck reflexes:

  • Asymmetric reflex: This reflex consists of the baby turning its side and instantly extending its arm at the same time. It signals the proper development of the baby’s hand-eye coordination.
  • Symmetrical reflex: This reflex appears as the baby develops, and disappears between the eighth and eleventh month. It serves as a precursor to crawling and allows the child to face the challenge of knowing how to control the effects of gravity.

Main characteristics of the neck reflex

Here’s a summary of the general aspects of this automated response:

  • Considered to be a bridge reflex; in other words, the baby isn’t born with it but it develops as the child grows.
  • Occurs as a result of other reflexes and it’s key to crawling and visual acuity.
  • Significantly increases the baby’s muscle tone. This in turn favors hand-eye coordination.
  • Clearly seen when the child is placed on their hands and knees as they try to balance.
  • Disappears around the age of 6 months

Difficulty in the proper integration of this reflex can result in problems in a baby’s gross and fine motor development, laterality and vision.

That’s why it’s important to let them experience it properly without accelerating the crawling or walking process.

Benefits of the neck reflex

One of the most important benefits of the neck reflex has to do with the preparation for crawling. Here are some other benefits:

  • Favors independent limb movement which is important for crawling.
  • Improves muscle tone around the back and neck.
  • Stimulates their relationship with gravity, helping them lift their body when on their hands and knees.
  • Allows for the realization of separate movements.
  • Encourages the development of focus and vision, as well as their interaction.
  • Favors good posture when sitting since it gives them the freedom to move their heads.

The neck reflex is undeniably essential for babies, and it begins to disappear as they start walking.

The Importance of the Neck Reflex during a Child's Development

Signs that the neck reflex is still active

One of the main functions of reflexes and especially the neck reflex is to allow the development of specific patterns in accordance to the baby’s age.

If the reflex remains active, it will serve as a symptom of the immaturity of their nervous system. This will affect the development of common functions.

The signs that neck reflexes are still active are:

  • Bad posture while sitting. They usually support themselves in front of the chair.
  • The child may be diagnosed with attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder.
  • Generalized weakness in the arms and legs.
  • Lack of coordination when crawling.
  • Muscle hypotonia. This results in difficulty in vision, focus and precision.
  • Dyslexia or difficulty learning how to read and write.

In conclusion, the neck reflex is necessary for your child’s development.

Help them go through all of the stages of their development with love and care. You should also know about each and every aspect of their growth.