She’s not a toy: having fun with baby reflexes

I guess most kids are familiar with the admonishment “it’s not a toy” after having fun toysonifying (new word!) an object that is meant for more serious matters. I’m sure I was.

I was smiling just now about my husband using that expression on me. Except that the object about which his faux admonishment was directed was not an object, but our baby. “She’s not a toy” he said as he watched me use her purely for my own entertainment, somewhat hypocritically with a smile on his face. 

I’d discovered a new, very entertaining baby reflex and was testing it out (showing it off to my friend, actually).

I have a bit of a fascination with babies’  primitive reflexes actually. I again find myself reflecting on how babies are amazing little creations. In the beginning, I seriously felt like LA was my motherhood sensei as she definitely seemed to know how to go about babying more than I knew how to go about mothering. I found it awe inspiring that within minutes of being born, she was already edging her way in the direction of my chest seeking out her source of sustenance. I also found it amazing (and self-esteem boosting, if I’m being honest) that even if she was beginning to squirm in her sleep she would calm down when I walked into the room, somehow sensing her mother’s presence.

While a baby’s reflexes do have an important survival function, they also make for great party tricks. They are the source of maybe a few too many giggles in our house.

First there was the rooting at papa’s chest searching for milk, the suckling in her sleep, and the very cute wrapping of her fingers around our own. There is also something called the tonic neck reflex which is a fancy term for babies posing and showing off their guns while they sleep (that is really what they are doing after all).

Ok, so  apparently one arm is supposed to out straight, but it’s something like this…

However, my favourite, more recently discovered reflex is something Google Sensei tells me is called the bradycardic response or diving reflex. This is your baby’s response to feeling water on his face and throat, that is, as I unwittingly found out, also set off by blowing in her face.

The first time she stopped breathing when I blew on her face I was a little alarmed. Partly because her breath-holding was accompanied by her eyes bulging wide and her arms kind of wiggling in what looked like fear.


Had I missed the parenting bulletin that said “never blow on your baby’s face????!!”

But then the moment passed and she continued as if nothing had happened. It actually kind of reminded me of those hypnotic tricks where the hypnotist says “clock” and the poor guy stops acting like a chicken and continues as normal, none the wiser. After consulting my trusty Google Sensei I discovered that this is a normal and important survival instinct. Since discovering it, I have found myself testing it’s functionality several times – you know, like you are meant to test your smoke alarms every now and then?

Try it! It’s fun :). And it has a purpose too…it can be a good way to train your baby to consciously hold her breath when diving underwater. The first few times I dunked LA underwater at our baby swimming class she got pretty upset and came up spluttering a little (I guess her reflex kicked in a little late?). But now I warn her by counting down and then blowing in her face before dunking her. She is totally fine when I do that and not stressed at all. I’m sure she would be fine either way (I mean, that’s what the reflex is for right?), but I hate seeing that panic-stricken look on her face, so it’s nice to have a gentler way for her to learn.

Reflexes or otherwise, what are some ways you like playing with baby toys girls or boys?




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