New parents are inundated with new terms and phrases while adjusting to life with baby. It's not uncommon to toss around previously perplexing ideas — such as swaddling, co-sleeping, or even lactation techniques — when conversing with other parents. It's just part of your new parenting "normal." If you're in the thick of trying to come up with a sleep training routine that'll actually work, though, you might wonder how to keep the Moro reflex from waking up your baby. Yes, a reflex you've never heard of will now become a hit topic at the dinner table. Parenthood is weird, you guys.
What To Expect describes the Moro reflex — also called an involuntary startle response — as a natural and involuntary reaction newborns are innately born with. This reaction will stick with your baby until they hit between 3 or 4 months of age. According to the Baby Sleep Site, "triggers, like loud noise, sudden movement, or even a bad dream" can cause the Moro reflex to disrupt your baby's sleep. They may experience a sudden trigger, like the feeling of falling, and suddenly move their arms wildly out to their sids, which will look something like a flailing or an intense jerk, that awakens them from their sleep.
In most instances, and especially when trying to lay baby down to sleep, you might notice their arms shooting up into the air — especially if there's a sudden loud noise. This is the Moro reflex in action because, to them, it may feel as though they're falling and no one is there to catch them. Even when sleeping, What to Expect says it's a baby's instinct to protect themselves from whatever might be happening.
If you're wondering how to keep this innate reflex from waking your sleeping baby, Healthline has a few tips all parents should consider. First, it's recommended that when laying baby down to sleep, you hold them as close to you as possible, with your hands along their back, until you've set them safely to the mattress. This helps eliminate that free-fall feeling, which is what triggers the startle/Moro reflex in the first place.
Another suggestion is to swaddle. By utilizing this technique, you're mimicking everything your baby felt in the womb. A swaddling blanket wrapped tightly, but not too tightly, around your baby provides them with safe, comfortable, and familiar feeling. This automatically relaxes them enough to drift off to sleep, and without having the annoying startle reflex disrupting them. Aside from the aforementioned suggests, Healthline reminds all parents that they should pay attention to the things that trigger the reflex in the first place, and then parents can adjust their baby's surroundings (if at all possible) accordingly.
Kirsten Weltmer, M.D. and pediatrician with Children's Mercy Hospitals, adds that there are other reflexes that could disturb your baby's sleep, too. Things like rooting, stepping, palmer grasp, plantar grasp, galant, and parachute reflexes (among a few others) may all contribute to lack of sleep your baby can learn to enjoy when sleep training. It's important to note the differences in each reflex, the adjust your baby's sleeping arrangement (if necessary) accordingly.
Parenting has a continuous learning curve. There will be times you'll think you've got it handled and then, suddenly and without warning, your baby moves onto another developmental stage. Rest assured, this, too, shall pass.