Although the Moro reflex is a good sign in newborn babies, some babies have an overactive or exaggerated Moro reflex that can sometimes interfere with sleep.
In very rare cases, a severe Moro reflex may be a sign of hyperekplexia, an inherited neurological condition.
Infants who have hyperekplexia have exaggerated startle responses, which brief periods of muscle rigidity and paralysis follow. They also have increased muscle tone, called hypertonia, which makes the limbs stiff and difficult to move. People can consult their doctor if they see these symptoms in a newborn.
Otherwise, it is important to remember that the Moro reflex is a normal reaction in healthy babies and that it is not a cause for concern. The Moro reflex is especially strong in newborn babies as they adjust to the world outside the womb, but it usually does not bother them.
Parents and caregivers can comfort a baby who cries or seems distressed when experiencing a Moro reflex by:
- moving the baby’s outstretched arms and legs gently toward their body
- holding the baby close until they calm down
- supporting the baby’s head and neck when moving or holding them
- swaddling the baby in a lightweight cloth
The term swaddling refers to different methods of wrapping newborn babies in a lightweight blanket. Swaddling helps keep a baby’s limbs close to their body so that they do not startle themselves while they sleep.
Here are some tips for swaddling a baby:
- Lay a large, thin blanket on a flat surface with one corner pointing up, so the blanket makes a diamond shape.
- Fold the top corner down.
- Put the baby face up, with their head and neck above the folded edge.
- Place the baby’s left arm straight alongside their body.
- Fold the left side of the blanket across the baby’s body, going under the right arm, and tuck it underneath their back.
- Place the baby’s right arm straight alongside their body.
- Fold the right side of the blanket over the baby’s body and tuck it underneath their left side.
- Fold the bottom corner up, but remember to leave a little room for the baby to move their feet.
Although swaddling is an age-old practice, it is a controversial topic among healthcare professionals, parents, and caregivers.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), swaddling can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) if the baby rolls onto their stomach.
The NIH recommend that swaddled babies should sleep on their backs. The NIH also recommend that parents and caregivers stop swaddling babies who can roll over on their own.
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