Why Does My Baby Get Startled While Sleeping?

(Last Updated On: November 29, 2022)

Why Does My Baby Get Startled While Sleeping? Your baby spent the last nine months within a protected, comfortable, secure space within your womb, during which it experienced a constant, light pressure from your uterus that created a “hug” feeling.

When your baby birth and has become familiar with the world outside, it will begin to feel the absence of this ‘constant hug-like sensation’ that could result in your baby being agitated while sleeping.

It’s possible that you’ve observed that babies flail their arms in a wide arc when they are agitated in sleep.

Researchers believe this is an early survival instinct intended to alert the baby that he was losing balance, which allowed them to keep from losing their grip on the mother.

Newborns could appear to arrive into the world as naive beings, but they’re equipped with a range of instinctive reflexes that ensure their safety, principally by alerting parents to seek help when they need it.


What Can Cause a Baby to Become Awake During Sleep?

Anything that is unfamiliar (that to which the baby was not familiar during the womb) may trigger a startling response.

An example is sudden changes in the surroundings, such as an abrupt sound, a sudden touch, or an abrupt shift in light intensity. It can also occur due to any other event that makes the baby feel out of balance, such as when you lower the infant to put in a crib or get him out of the tub.

It can also be triggered by a shift from one area to the next or any event that alters the amount of support the baby feels.

For you, these triggers might seem so minor that you’ll barely notice they’re there. However, for your baby, who, till now, was accustomed to living in the womb, even the slightest of changes could trigger this frightened reaction.

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What the Moro Reflex Looks Like

As babies are born and exposed to awe-inspiring external stimuli, they naturally extend their legs and arms as they open their fingers and backs.

Afterward, they will hold their hands tight and bring their arms toward their chests. As mentioned earlier, they also show an expression of startled surprise.

Children exposed to loud sounds or other stimuli might be crying.

If you’d like to observe the startle reaction in action just observe infants whenever they feel like they are about to fall, like when they are placed in car seats or cribs and when they experience an alarming or loud sound like dogs barking or the door closing.

The startle reflex doesn’t stop in this manner, however. Babies who hear loud sounds might also feel effects their parents don’t notice, like an increased heart rate or excessive breathing.

Certain children are more sensitive than other babies and react with greater force and often.

For sensitive infants, an unintentional touch could trigger an increase in the startle reflex. This isn’t necessarily negative, but it alerts parents to the possibility that their child could be extremely sensitive to sensory stimuli.

Read More: Can I Use Bug Spray on My Infant?

What Can I Do to Keep My Infant from Becoming Startled?

You might observe your baby’s reflex or startle while getting them to bed. Leaning on your back to lay the baby down can cause your baby to experience the feeling of falling. This can awaken your baby, even if they’re sleeping well.

If your child’s Moro reflex hinders them from sleeping normally, You can try these strategies:

Be sure to keep your infant close to you when laying their bodies down. Keep them close to your body for as long as they lie down. Let your baby go gently when their back is in contact with the mattress.

The support you provide should be sufficient to stop them from feeling an unsettling sensation that could cause the startle reflex to occur.

Swaddle your infant. This will make your baby feel secure and safe. Swaddling is a method of cuddling that recreates the cozy, close spaces of the mother’s womb. It may also help your newborn sleep nicely.

Does Startle Reflex Cause Harm to Infants?

Not at all. The startle reflex is normal in a newborn or baby between three and four months old. The absence of the reflex is unusual in the newborn and could indicate a malfunction within the baby’s nervous system.

Find out more about what the absence of a startle reflex indicates for a newborn.

What to Do When a Baby Startles?

While it might appear disturbing for your child, remember that it’s normal for babies to scream when they hear a loud sound or when you place them on their backs in bed.

Sometimes, they could trigger a reaction on their own due to their own rapid movement.

There is nothing to do in the event that a baby starts to scream. But, they’ll likely be able to calm themselves with calming actions, like touching, holding, or even singing to them. It is important to note that some babies cease crying on their own when they’re frightened.

Why Does My Baby Get Startled While Sleeping?

Others might require additional intervention, for example, being carried around not to cry or be soothed. If the reaction to startling is disrupting the baby’s sleep, parents may try swaddling to make the startle less painful.

Does the Moro reflex a Problem in Infants?

Does the Moro reflex a problem? The answer to this question will be yes or no. On the other side, a child displaying that Moro reflex is showing the well-being that is his nervous system, so there’s nothing wrong in that regard.

But the other way, if babies scream and wake themselves up, he’s likely to feel sore and cry. What parent wouldn’t be upset to see a peaceful nap abruptly interrupted?

While naptime disruptions are considered a nuisance, the problem gets more complicated when sleep for dad and mom is interrupted too.

When the Moro reflex awakes babies in the middle of the night, dad and mom wake up. In this way, cutting down on the Moro reflex can aid the entire family in losing more sleep.

What Happens When the Reflex of Startling in Infants Disappears?

When your baby is approximately six weeks old, the baby will begin to adjust to life outside of the birthing womb and begin to become more comfortable within his environment.

Your baby’s startle reflex will begin declining and eventually disappear around the 4th month and sometimes even in the 5th month.

Therefore, until then, ensure that you give your baby plenty of additional support to provide him with a secure sensation of swaddling, which can help your child feel comfortable.

Related: Is Ready-to-Feed Formula Easier to Digest?

When Will the Moro Reflex Disappear?

If you’ve noticed that the Moro reflex keeps you awake at night or has awakened you – there’s what you’re thinking about. What happens when the Moro reflex disappears?

Luckily, this sleepy interruption usually disappears between 3 and 6 months. At this point, the baby is beginning to become more confident, adapts to this part of the womb, and is able to control bodily actions.

Related: What happens if a Baby Drinks Old Formula?

Does Swaddling Aid in the Startling of Reflex?

Yes. Swaddling can help recreate an ambiance that resembles the womb, giving the baby a secure and comfortable sensation, which may help to calm the baby while experiencing a startle reflex.

Swaddling is a practice that has been in use for ages, including wrapping the child in a way that produces gentle pressure, continuous edges, or touching, re-creating the feeling that the baby felt when it was inside the womb.

The act of swaddling your child will keep his arms warm, which helps avoid the feeling of falling that they may experience and cause waking up from a deep sleep. Some doctors, like Dr. Harvey Karp, report that when a baby’s swaddles are wrapped, they can sleep for an additional 3 to 4 hours.

If you’re unfamiliar, swaddle the fabric that wraps around the baby’s body to form the softest cocoon.

Did you know that traditional swaddles are simply square blankets that require a lot of folding and tucking to achieve an ideal fit?

On the other side, the Zen Swaddle uses secure fasteners to provide a safe and adjustable fit that keeps the baby’s delicate limbs in place, so they don’t wake up.

Swaddling is the best method to soothe Moro’s Reflex if initiated shortly after the birth. Making a swaddling element of the baby’s sleep routine early on can help establish that once the swaddle has been put on, it’s time to sleep.

Zen Swaddle is lightly weighted to replicate your gentle touch. Its constant use can help babies learn to relax as they age. The soft pressure acts as a touch, which helps keep your baby calm, so they will fall asleep on their own even when they start to stir and flutter around.

Related: Can Drinking Too Much Milk Causes a Toddlers Stool to Be White

What Happens if my Child Does Not Have Moro Reflex?

As parents, we are responsible for taking care of our kids as parents, isn’t it? We may be enticed to think about the Moro reflex waking up our child too often, and we begin to be concerned about the absence of the Moro reflex.

Research suggests that the absence of this reflex leads to possible brain problems or birth-related trauma.

Since it is the Moro reflex is an important sign of a healthy nervous system, Pediatricians test for it at the time of birth and again during regular visits to the baby.

The doctor can examine your baby’s reflex by re-creating a feeling of falling by lifting the baby’s weight of its body on a firm surface.

When is the Right Time to Stop Swaddling Our Babies?

Are you noticing that your child is getting scared during sleep? As your baby gets stronger and becomes more accustomed to his surroundings, the startle reflex will begin diminishing and then disappears around 5 months. It is usually the moment to stop the swaddling.

But, most babies do so well sleep when they are swaddled that some mothers are hesitant to transition the baby’s growth out of the swaddle, which can be detrimental to the baby’s development.

The exact date for removing the baby from the swaddle will differ for each baby; generally, between 4 and six months, the baby may show indications that it is time to end the swaddle.

If your baby is beginning to do one of these things, it’s a sign to begin planning to move your baby away from a swaddle

  • The arms are taken out of their swaddle when sleeping, increasing the activity.
  • The tendency to be too mobile for staying in a swaddled position all night.
  • It attempts to roll over due to increased neck and arm strength.
  • It starts to wake early in the morning despite being able to sleep well.
  • No or less trigger reflex

In the end, the startle reflex is present from birth and goes away around 4 to 6 months. It is also the moment when your baby can roll over.

Therefore, it’s a good habit to begin swaddling from birth and then stop around 6 to 4-6 months.

Baby Still Rolling But with a Startle Reflex?

For some infants that are swaddled, the sense of safety of being swaddled is desired for a long time, even after the reflex of startling is gone.

However, Swaddling does not make their children content, as they desire to let their legs go from the tightly encased cocoon.

As the baby gets stronger and starts to learn to get out of the swaddle or begins to roll over when being swaddled, it can pose a security danger.

For Handling This Issue, Try these Suggestions:

1.) When you lower your sleeping baby in the bassinet or crib, ensure that he is as close to you as possible throughout the time you can. Hold your baby close as you slowly move your body.

After that, slowly place your child on the mattress, holding his chest close for a couple of seconds before releasing the contact to your body to ensure that your child isn’t agitated during sleep.

Related: The Ultimate Baby Diaper Buying Guide

If He Can Feel the Back of his Mattress, the Person will Feel Safe Enough not to be Frightened.

2.) Another way is to use an alternative Swaddle suit such as the Sleepy Hugs sleepsuit, a mother-created sleepsuit designed to assist babies’ transition smoothly away from the swaddle.

The design of the suit helps babies be more comfortable with the startle reflex because it allows the baby to play with his hands without restriction while offering that safe, enclosed feeling of being secure and enclosed.

Methods to Lessen Your Moro Reflex

If you find that the Moro reflex is making your child skip out on sleep, you might be seeking methods to lessen this Moro reflex. Nobody – not even a tiny baby would like to be deprived of sleep.

  • Swaddling Since studies have shown that swaddling can have a “significant inhibitory effect” on the Moro reflex, Swaddling your baby can be an ideal solution to minimize the wake-ups. To avoid overheating, go for a light, natural fabric like a swaddling blanket made of muslin. If you’re new at swaddling and concerned about positioning your baby’s hips incorrectly, go for an unnatural Swaddleme with no wrapping. No matter what you are swaddling your baby, Swaddling is effective because it makes the baby feel at ease and secure; it’s like being swaddled by Mama during birth.
  • Babywearing, the most difficult part of lying a baby down to take nap time is the actual lying-baby-down part. Babywearing eliminates the problem since the baby is actually hugging Mama (or Papa), so there’s warmth, closeness, and affection. It is much harder to startle a child in a position where he’s cradled close and secured securely. If you are able to perfect your wrap techniques or choose an unstructured baby carrier that is structured, this is an excellent option to keep the baby safe.
  • The cosleeping method: Co-sleeping can be an amazing arrangement. However, an unsteady mattress or a parent who tosses and rotates throughout the night could trigger the Moro reflex faster than you could say, “Lights Out”. If you are sleeping with someone else, stay away from abrupt movements, and if you can, buy a brand new, quiet, and non-bouncy (preferably natural) mattress.
  • Transferring your baby: Have you ever performed a series of lullabies, danced for long periods (okay, it’s just like hours) as you did your best to soothe and kiss your baby to sleep, then you laid him down, only to find that he suddenly awakes? It’s a bit frustrating, but the process of moving the baby (to an adult bed nursery, bassinet, or even a co-sleeper attachment) is possible to improve. Lay your baby in a gentle and slow manner. After your baby has asleep, you should keep your hands close to the baby for a minute or two. Release your hands gently. The sudden release of your hands may feel scary to infants.

Related: What Kind of Water Should Babies Drink?

What Does the Absence of Moro Reflex Actually Mean?

The absence of the Moro reflex, also known as the startle reflex in a newborn, indicates an abnormality in the infant.

In the absence of a startle reflex, both sides indicate that the infant might suffer from brain injuries or spinal cord injuries.

Why Does My Baby Get Startled While Sleeping?

A lack of a startle reflex on the sides suggests that the baby is suffering from fractured shoulder bones or that there has been an injury to the brachial nerve, a set of nerves running from the neck’s lower part to the upper shoulder.

  • After birth or during visits to your childcare provider, examines for the Moro reflex.
  • This is accomplished by placing the baby face-up onto an upholstered, soft surface.
  • The head is then gently lifted without lifting the body of the child.
  • The head is released quickly, giving the impression of a sudden and sluggish fall for a short time, but quickly supported (of course, the head isn’t allowed to hit the cushion).

The typical reaction of a baby is to exhibit an exasperated reaction. The baby’s arms must move sideways with the palms upwards and the thumbs bent. The baby may cry for a few minutes.

The reflex stops when the infant stops, it draws its arms away from the body, with elbows bent, and then it relaxes.

If the reaction isn’t discovered, it signals that things aren’t going well for the baby.

What is an Overexaggerated Moro Reflex Actually Mean?

An exaggerated Moro reflex was discovered as a gene-based condition that is also known as hyperekplexia, in which babies exhibit an exaggerated trigger (reaction).

This condition was first identified in 1962. It begins with hypertonia (stiffness), and the brain’s stem is a strong reflex (especially the head-retraction reflex) and sometimes epilepsy.

The exaggerated response to startling continues throughout life, and it can be caused even when you lightly touch a person’s nose and make other noises or by suddenly jolting or shaking the person’s chair.

I hope this helps and ensures that your child will not be disturbed while asleep.