Rooting Reflex in Babies – When And How Does it Develop?

5 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.

Rooting Reflex in Babies

Babies are born with several reflexes or involuntary reactions. Each of these reflexes plays a significant role in the survival, thriving and development of the baby. These reflexes usually disappear as the infant grows. Reflexes are vital for babies in the sense that each of them allows for the development of a particular skill. For example, rooting reflex in babies lays the foundation for sucking breast milk and feeding in the later years. Similarly, the stepping reflex acts as a predecessor for future walking and other movements.

After birth, babies go through a lot of environmental changes from a warm, protected and dark womb to a world full of light, noise, sounds and smells. Everything they experience after birth is completely new to them. Therefore, they need to go through a lot of adjustments that are supported by some of their primitive reflexes. In this article, we learn all about the rooting reflex in babies, when it develops, and when the body naturally gets rid of this reflex.

In This Article

What is a Rooting Reflex in Babies?

Rooting reflex is one of the most essential reflexes in babies that helps them to adjust to the world. It is essential because it is associated with their feeding. Rooting reflex means a reflexive action produced by a baby when you gently touch its cheek or corner of the mouth. In this reflex, a baby turns around and opens its mouth in the direction it felt the touch.

This reflex helps a newborn baby find the breast or the bottle to help with feeding. By about the third month, babies lose this reflex and naturally start looking for feed.

When Does the Rooting Reflex in Babies Start?

mom holding new born baby

Babies are born with a set of primitive reflexes that help them to go through and adjust to the new world. Most of these primitive reflexes develop in the womb. The rooting reflex is also among them which naturally develops within 28-30 weeks after conception. This rooting reflex helps a baby to find its mother’s breast. The rooting reflex is followed by the sucking reflex which is also a very essential part of their feeding, originally developed in the womb.

Therefore, in some cases, when babies are born premature (before 28 weeks) they may not have the rooting reflex. Also, in some cases, babies develop the sucking reflex but still do not have the rooting reflex.

[Read : Spoon Feeding a Newborn]

How to Test For Rooting Reflex in Babies?

baby sucking mom hand

Testing the rooting reflex in your baby is quite easy. To test the rooting reflex in your baby, just gently stroke the cheek of your baby or touch the corner of their mouth with your fingers or nipple and look for the response. Your baby will immediately respond by making sucking movements trying to look for milk.

How Long Does the Rooting Reflex Last?

These reflexes develop in the baby at different times including the time before and after birth help them to find the breast for food. They develop at a certain time and disappear after a period naturally. Rooting reflex lasts in a baby for the first 4 months. Sometimes, the rooting reflex can disappear before time and babies will be able to turn their heads and find the right position for sucking naturally. Also, they will not respond to every touch with searching for food when they grow hunger cues.

Also, in some cases rooting reflex can stay longer than the normal period of it, especially when the baby has developed the rooting reflex later than usual.

Does Rooting Reflex Mean Baby is Hungry?

The rooting reflex helps babies to find the source of food, but this does not always mean your baby is hungry. Naturally, the rooting reflex can be triggered through some simple steps such as touch or a gentle touch on their cheek or the corners of the month. And so, the rooting reflex can be triggered easily but this does not always hint that they are hungry. It can be a mere reflex as they are still not adjusted to respond differently with every touch.

[Read : How to Know Your Baby is Hungry – Know the Signs]

When to Seek Help From Doctors?

doctor checking baby for reflex

Testing the primitive reflexes in babies is an important part of a newborn health and wellness check-up. Doctors always check these instincts when examining a baby.

Testing the rooting reflex is easy and you can easily keep track of their rooting reflex on your own. The rooting reflex develops in the baby before birth and stays for 3-4 months after birth. But if you face the below-mentioned issues below, you can check with the pediatrician.

  • The rooting disappears before time and comes back after a time.
  • The rooting lasts in the baby for more than 6 months.

Rooting reflex in babies is a natural reflex that appears at birth and disappears in due course. It is one of the many reflexes that babies have. There is nothing much that parents can do about this reflex except let things take their own course.


1. Is Rooting a Sleepy Cue?

No. Rooting reflex is associated with feeding and therefore it helps your child to find the source of food (breast, milk bottle etc.) Also, it can be associated with the hunger cue.

2. Is the Rooting Reflex and Sucking Reflex The Same?

The rooting reflex helps the baby to find the breast or nipple and the sucking reflex helps them to suck the food. Therefore, these two reflexes are closely associated with each other but are not the same.

3. Is Rooting a Hunger Cue?

Rooting is a primitive reflex which is associated with babies’ feeding but it is not a hunger cue as a hunger cue develops soon or after the rooting reflex disappears. But sometimes rooting can be influenced by hunger cues.

Read Also: Sucking Reflex in Babies – When Does it Develop?

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

Responses (0)

Please check a captcha

Want curated content sharply tailored for your exact stage of parenting?

Discover great local businesses around you for your kids.

Get regular updates, great recommendations and other right stuff at the right time.


Our site uses cookies to make your experience on this site even better. We hope you think that is sweet.