Find Out How To Deal With This Moro Reflex So You And Your Baby Can Get To Sleep—And Stay Asleep!

You’ve gotten your baby to fall asleep in your arms. Ever so gingerly you lean over the edge of the crib and lower her down on the mattress when—whoa!—out of nowhere, she flings her arms and legs to the side and screams hysterically as if you’re tossing her down a mine shaft. Find out how to deal with this Moro reflex so you and your baby can get to sleep—and stay asleep!
by Joanne Kimes

Now she’s kicking and yelling like never before and you’re thinking, “What did I do wrong?” (actually your dialogue is much more R-rated).

The answer my poor pathetic pooped-out parent is that you did nothing wrong. You’re just dealing with one of the most horrific aspects of putting a baby to sleep: The Moro reflex (also known as the startle reflex). You see, babies are born with a veritable smorgasbord of fascinating and fun reflexes. Stroke the sole of your baby’s foot and his toes flare out. Stroke her cheek and she turns her head to look for a nipple. Poke your finger into the palm of baby’s hand and he’ll close his fingers around it like a sea anemone. You could play with these reflexes for hours. It’s like you’ve given birth to a Game Boy.

Survival reflex

But the reflex that holds absolutely no enjoyment at all is called The Moro reflex. This is the one where a loud noise or the sensation of falling will cause a baby to startle and flail. And when that baby is falling asleep, it’ll cause it to go from relaxed to hysterical in .6 seconds.

This reflex is a part of our human machinery where Mother Nature hasn’t quite worked out the kinks yet. The belief is that back when we were furry creatures roaming the earth and Mamma Cavemonkey dropped her offspring, this instinct would cause her young to instantly reach up and grab her furry body. But now with the aid of evolution and the Lady Shick shaver, we’re no longer furry creatures. Nevertheless, the Moro reflex remains.

Survival strategies

If you’re frustrated by this reflex, there are a few things you can do to keep it Moro or less to a minimum:

1. When you descend your sleeping baby into its crib or bassinet, keep her as close to your body as possible for as long as possible. Hug her while you gradually bend over and contort yourself into a position that’s donned the cover of several girly magazines. Then place your baby on the mattress before you actually relinquish contact with your body. Once a slumbering baby feels a mattress on her back, she usually feels secure enough not to flail. I know it’ll feel like you’re putting a container of nitroglycerine to bed, but it works.

2. Swaddle your baby up tightly to give him a sense of comfort and security. If you’ve ever had an herbal wrap at a spa, you know exactly what I mean. Plus, when swaddled, he can’t flail around.

3. Lie down on the floor and feed your baby to sleep. Okay, you’re desperate. You haven’t slept in days. You’re convinced that your kid is implanted with a high-tech, sci-fi sensor that reacts every time you lower her down. Give yourself a break and lie down on the floor, feed your kid to sleep, close the door so Fido or Fluffy can’t get in, then leave (or fall asleep yourself). No flailing necessary.

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