What Is the Rooting Reflex?

The rooting reflex is the natural reaction of a newborn to move his head when a person strokes his cheek, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The newborn moves his head toward the touch and begins a sucking motion. This reflex helps the newborn find the nipple to breastfeed.

The initial rooting reflex causes the infant to move his head from side to side toward the nipple and away again in arcs until he finds the breast or bottle nipple, notes the American Academy of Pediatrics. As infants near 3 weeks of age, they are able to turn their head and move right into position for nursing. The rooting reflex appears at birth and disappears around 4 months of age.