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Newborn Reflexes and Behavior

Some newborn behaviors that concern parents are not signs of illness. They are usually due to an immature nervous system and will disappear in 3 or 4 months. Some common reflexes and behaviors include:

  • Trembling chin
  • Quivering lower lip
  • Having hiccups
  • Passing gas (not a temporary behavior)
  • Making noises when sleeping (from breathing and moving). Also during light sleep, babies can normally whimper, cry, groan, or make other strange noises. If you use a nursery monitor don't over-react to these normal variations in sleep sounds.
  • Sneezing
  • Yawning
  • Spitting up or burping
  • Stiffening of the body after a noise or sudden movement (also called the startle reflex)
  • Straining when passing stools
  • Clearing the throat (or gurgling sounds in the throat)
  • Breathing irregularly (This is normal if your baby is content, the rate is less than 60 breaths per minute, any pauses are less than 10 seconds long, and your baby isn't turning blue. Sometimes babies take rapid, progressively deeper breaths to completely expand their lungs.)
  • Trembling or jitteriness of arms and legs during crying is normal. Convulsions are rare. During convulsions babies also have muscle jerks, blink their eyes, unexplained lip movements, and don't cry. If you think your baby is having a seizure, call your healthcare provider immediately.
Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.3 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2012-05-15
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD FAAP. All rights reserved.
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