What Causes Reflexes to Be Retained?
There are a number of different reasons why primitive reflexes fail to integrate. One of the biggest factors that cause reflexes to be retained is a traumatic birthing process. This includes prolonged or premature birth, breach position, births involving forceps or suction, and emergency Caesareans. The general increase in Caesarean section births may also be a contributing factor to the increased incidence of retained primitive reflexes since some of the reflexes are stimulated by the process of passing through the birth canal during natural childbirth. The reflexes involved in aiding the birthing process are more likely to still be ‘present’ at a later age with children that were born via Caesarian section.
Societal factors can also come into play such as not allowing babies to spend enough time lying on their stomachs (tummy time) due to the fear of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). *It is important to follow the advice of your pediatrician regarding SIDS.
Another societal factor that can cause reflexes to be retained is the lack of exploration of the infant’s space and world during the creeping and crawling stage. If an infant spends a great deal of time in a car seat, stroller, crib, or other confining environment it is more likely that the primitive reflexes will be retained past the typical timeline.
Doing “too much, too fast” can also be detrimental to the developmental process. As a child develops they gain more and more control over their physical body.
Children progress from lying on their back, to rolling over onto their stomach, to creeping, to crawling, and eventually to walking. Some parents will comment, “My child was very fast to develop! He was walking very early!” Unfortunately, the child who spends little time crawling can miss out on some valuable developmental experiences for visual-spatial development.
It is very important that we first gain mastery of our environment from the ground as this stage of development strengthens our muscular system and sets in place the building blocks for higher-level coordination and spatial awareness.