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My baby is very startled when sleeping: is it normal?

If you have just had a baby, you have probably noticed that they startle too much, and many times they do so even when they sleep. These startles come in the form of jumping up or opening and waving the arms as if falling. Although this is an unpleasant sensation for the baby (and one that may even worry parents), it is completely normal and is part of their primary reflexes.

We explain why the baby is startled when he sleeps and what we can do to help him.

Why is my baby startled?

When the baby is born, he leaves a safe, warm and protected space, to begin his life in a world full of stimuli, changes in temperature, lights and noises. It is logical that before this sudden and unfamiliar change of environment, the baby is scared and startled by certain stimuli, especially when we do not have him in our arms.

On the other hand, in the maternal womb the baby has a very small and delimited space; that is, it remains “contained” within the amniotic sac. However, when it is born there are no longer any spaces that delimit it, hence at the beginning they have that feeling of insecurity.

To this feeling of helplessness and insecurity that the baby experiences in its first weeks of transition to the world, is also added the presence of one of the primary reflexes, known precisely as the “startle reflex or Moro reflex”.

This reflex, present in the baby during the first three or four months of life, occurs especially in changes in position in which the baby experiences a lack of support, which makes him tense his shoulders and back, extend his arms and quickly open the palms of the hands as if falling.

Can we prevent the baby from being startled?

Although, as we say, startle in the baby is something completely normal and natural, if we have any questions about it or are concerned about these starts we should consult with the pediatrician. In parallel, there are some things we can do to prevent the newborn from being startled and make their transition to the world more pleasant:

  • Mom and Dad’s arms are the safest and most comfortable place for a baby. In his lap he finds peace, protection, security and comfort. In addition, if the mother chooses to breastfeed her child, she will be providing much more than food.
  • Avoid placing the newborn in a crib that is too large , as this will increase his feeling of insecurity by not noticing body limits. The minicots or bassinets located next to the parents’ bed are the best option for the baby to sleep safely and peacefully.

  • Swaddling your baby can also help calm him , promote sleep, and give him greater peace of mind. However, it is very important to follow the recommendations of the experts to do it safely, otherwise it could be dangerous.

  • During the first days of your baby’s life, ensure a pleasant, soft and noise-free environment . Although obviously we cannot recreate the conditions in which the baby lived in the womb, we can make the transition easier by ensuring an environment as relaxed and calm as possible, avoiding shrill noises, loud voices, direct lights … and in general , any stimulus that may upset or frighten you.

  • Move the baby slowly and delicately , as he is very sensitive to sudden changes in position. We must hold the baby so that it does not startle, always holding its little head and previously warning of our presence through the voice, because many times they are scared when they suddenly notice that someone picks them up without having heard them before.

Photos | Pexels

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