Babies will, at around 6 months old, develop a reflex known as the parachute reflex. It is an indication of motor nerve development and if all is well, the baby will extend their arms and hands on both sides of their body in a protective movement, exhibiting a skydiving like posture.
The parachute reflex is one of many primitive reflexes, we covered the palmar grasp reflex in week 24; “A Newborn’s Grasp is So Strong, It Can Hold Its Entire Body Weight Whilst Hanging from Its Arms”. Even though this reflex appears long before babies walk, the parachute reflex’s primary purpose is to break a baby’s fall and is needed for all the practicing and subsequent falls that will ensue whilst learning to walk. This can happen either a forwards or a backwards direction, and also sideways, all of which are designed to prevent the babies head from sustaining any damage.
Unlike other primitive reflexes, the parachute reflex stays with us throughout adulthood, as a handy security mechanism. Do you remember the last time you face planted the floor? ‘nuff said!