Newborns have many different reflexes programmed into their little brains, designed for their survival under the toughest of circumstances. You could say that they have an innate intelligence helping them to make the most of their environment.
Moro's Reflex is also known as the Startle Reflex. It appears when the baby is startled by a sudden, loud noise or if support of the baby's head or torso is suddenly withdrawn. This reflex will usually disappear at 3-4 months, but in the meantime, it helps parents to respond to their babies' need for physical security and stability.
The Rooting Reflex helps a baby find it's source of food. If the baby's cheek is stroked with a finger or the mother's nipple, the baby will turn it's head to find the nipple and will begin to suck.
The Gag Reflex is a fantastic defense mechanism in a newborn, and while it is natural and helpful, it can cause some concern if the baby seems to vomit a lot. This reflex protects a baby from choking while learning to feed, swallow and breathe in a coordinated rhythm. It automatically expels an object from a baby's throat.
We hear a lot about "spoiling" babies and sleep-deprived parents are often more vulnerable to believe "quick-fix" theories on how to get their little ones to sleep longer at night. The truth is, babies are MEANT to sleep for short periods during the day AND at night until they have reached an age and weight that sustains them for longer periods. This age and weight can vary from baby to baby, but sleeping short periods at night is healthy and normal. This is for a variety of important reasons.
1. Babies need a certain amount of calories to grow and thrive. They must receive an adequate amount of calories in every 24 hour period to do this. When they are tiny and new, they can only contain so much milk in one feeding. This requires them to feed more often, including at night.
2. Recent SIDS research suggests that babies under 4 months who sleep for longer periods of time (4+ hours at a time), can fall into a deeper REM state which puts them at risk of not recovering, stimulating and waking on their own.
3. Older babies are more capable of maintaining their biorhythms during wakeful periods and deeper sleep. Managing biorhythms such as heartbeat, breathing and body temperature are new requirements for infants' bodies within the first few months after birth. Being within touch-distance of a caregiver provides newborns with stimulation which assists them to develop the ability to maintain their own biorhythms.
4. Speaking of touch... The Touch Research Institute tells us that skin-to-skin contact (such as during times of breastfeeding) can benefit babies in various ways, including encouraging weight gain, greater immune response, stimulating emotional intelligence and overall health and well-being of the infant.