New-born babies can do some pretty impressive things. Right from the start, the moment you hold your little one, you will notice some of these impressive feats. Every child is born with a particular set of primitive reflexes. These reflexes help guide and shape their development as they grow (Doman & Doman 2005:57). The stepping reflex is one of the primitive reflexes that are displayed as early as one week old. When you hold your infant upright with the feet almost touching a hard surface, you will notice that the baby’s reaction will be to place one foot in front of the other. Research indicates that this primitive reflex starts developing when your baby is still just a foetus in your womb. Though babies obviously cannot walk at birth, this is one of the reflexes that will help them to do so in just a couple of months. When it comes to the question of why babies have this reflex, there is common consensus: experts believe that the purpose of the stepping reflex is to help in the proper development of the leg muscles and leg movement. The stepping reflex will gradually begin to disappear when your baby reaches two to three months of age. However, some babies may retain the reflex for longer. Also, keep in mind that it is common for the stepping reflex to reappear in some infants around 10-12 months, before it is time to start walking. If it does reappear later in their first year, this may be a clue that your infant is getting ready to walk (Min et al. 2011).
De Jager, M., 2012, Baby Gym: brain and body gym for babies, Metz Press, South Africa.
Doman, G. & Doman, J., 2005, How smart is your baby? Develop and nurture your newborn’s full potential, Square One Publishers, New York.
Min, S., Ahn, Y. & Lee, S., 2011, Assessment of Primitive Reflexes in High-Risk Newborns, Journal of Clinical Medicine Research 3(6), December, 285-290.