Dr. Kim Tran
What are Retained Primitive Reflexes?
Babies are born with instinctive primitive reflexes to help them survive and thrive in their new world outside the womb. The sucking, rooting, grasping, Babinski’s, etc. are all primitive reflexes that are checked throughout their first year of life. Primitive reflexes are actually the first part of the brain to develop and usually only remain active for the first few months to a year of life. When babies hit their developmental milestones, these reflexes naturally integrate in sequential order during the first year. So during that first year of life babies are in this fight or flight mode until they learn to adapt and integrate their reflexes. But did you know that these reflexes are supposed to go away by 12 months of age? When they’re retained, it can cause other issues in your child like poor coordination and balance, clumsiness, over activity or over sensitivity, poor handwriting and reading, difficulty learning, difficulty differentiating left and right and the list continues.
As parents we’re always watching and counting our baby’s milestones right?, I know I did. Are they lifting their head at 3 weeks, grabbing things at 3 months, crawling by 6 months and walking by 12 months? Every milestone is so important because it’s a new brain connection being made, each one leading to the next developmental milestone. So if baby skips a milestone or is delayed, there's a vital brain connection that was missed. This delay creates a domino effect as baby gets older. These primitive reflexes turn into what's called postural reflexes and more mature patterns of response that control balance, coordination and sensory motor development. When these reflexes don't get integrated and are retained, babies continue to stay in this fight or flight mode which can lead to further developmental delays and behavioral issues.
When children are stuck in this fight or flight mode it's like they're always in this protective mode. You can't be in growth and protection at the same time. Protection always wins so the body always feels like there's this threat there. Getting these reflexes integrated and making sure kids are well adjusted are vital to their growth and development. So how do these reflexes get integrated after the age of one? There are integration exercises specific for each primitive reflex that the child can do. Getting adjusted as well so that their nervous system is functioning 100% and able to receive the integration exercises is key.
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