What is the Babinski reflex?
The sucking and rooting reflexes help infants find food, the tonic neck and grasping reflexes prepare babies to reach for and hold objects, and the stepping and Babinski reflexes prepare infants to walk and protect them from falling.
The Babinski reflex, also called the plantar reflex, is commonly tested soon after birth and during routine wellness check-ups. It assesses normal development and may offer an early indication of developmental issues. The Babinski reflex is relatively easy to test at home and with little training.
When a health care provider administers the Babinski test, they use a reflex hammer to stroke the outer side of the sole of the baby’s foot from top to heel. In an adult or older infant, the big toe will move down and the remaining toes will also flex in the same direction and bunch together.
In healthy babies under 12 months old or adults with brain or spinal cord damage, the big toe will move up and the other toes will extend and spread out. Read on for our comprehensive guidelines for the Babinski reflex, including how it’s tested and what normal and abnormal findings look like.
When does a plantar reflex appear and go away?
The Babinski sign is common in newborns and typically disappears by 9–12 months. Some older babies still display the reflex at 24 months, but beyond this age, it is usually associated with developmental problems.