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Erin van Vuuren

Baby Gets Startled Easily. Why?

Baby’s so jumpy! It seems like so many noises startle him. Why does this happen and when will it stop?

We all get startled now and then. But the startling reflex in infants is a bit different.

“The startling reflex, known to physicians as the Moro reflex, is usually caused when your baby’s head changes position or falls back abruptly, or when she hears a loud or unusual noise,” explains Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, a family physician and coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year. “When babies exhibit the startling reflex, they typically react by throwing out their arms and legs and extending their necks, and then rapidly bringing their arms back together. Often they cry at the same time or shortly afterward.” It’s all part of being a baby, and you don’t really need to do anything about it.

McAllister says the Moro reflex has usually run its course by the time baby is two months old. Of course, everyone gets startled by things, no matter their age. If you think he’s exhibiting a true Moro reflex and he’s older than three months, check it out with the pediatrician. You might just have a more sensitive baby.

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