What is the Moro reflex?

The Moro reflex was first described by the Austrian pediatrician Ernst Moro in 1918 when he called it "Umklammerungsreflex" (embracing reflex). Dr.Moro  stated: "When a young infant is placed on the examination table and one taps with hands on both sides of the pillow, there follows a rapid symmetrical extending abduction of both extremities, which approach each other in adduction immediately thereafter".

The Moro reflex is an infantile reflex that develops between 28–32 weeks of gestation and usually disappears between 3–6 months of age. If it lasts longer, then there may be a neurologic problem with the infant. The reflex is a response to a sudden loss of support and involves three distinct components.

  • spreading out the arms (abduction)
  • pulling the arms in (adduction)
  • crying (usually)

The Moro reflex is distinct from the startle reflex, and unlike the startle reflex, the Moro reflex does not decrease with repeated stimulation. The primary significance of the Moro reflex is in evaluating the integration of the central nervous system.

Normally, babies have the Moro reflex until they are approximately four-six months old. Doctors will check your baby for the Moro reflex right after birth to ensure that there are no related problems with his or her motor development. Since the reflex is to prevent a baby from falling, the test that the doctor will administer is supposed to simulate that sensation by gently dropping the head for a moment. In an effort to “catch” himself, your baby will become alert and quickly move both arms to the side with the thumbs flexed. Often, babies cry after the initial reflex movement. If you were a mother carrying her baby around while performing manual labor as moms of the past did, this reflex would alert you that your baby has lost his grip and it would give you time to catch him. Now, the reflex shows up more commonly when a loud noise startles the baby or when he or she is jolted suddenly by a clumsy parent bumping into the crib.

Though the intentions of the reflex aren’t applicable to many modern babies, it is still interesting to see the instinctive movement that your own baby was born with. There aren’t many instincts that humans rely on because technology and inventions have diminished the need for them. However, newborn babies are unsure of how their environment will be, and the Moro reflex will be present even in the most safe and sound babies with no real risk of falling at any point in their infancy. Though you might see it, hopefully your baby will never actually need the Moro reflex.

The Moro carrot soup 

Professor Moro, the head of a children hospital in Heidelberg, found out by experiment that a simple carrot soup decreased the death rate of babies suffering from diarrhea by nearly 50%. The soup was made by pureeing 500 grams of peeled carrots in a blender, adding 1 liter of water, and then cooking it for one hour. After cooking, 3 grams of salt were added, along with enough water until the soup pot contained a total of 1 liter of liquid.

A German study published in 2002 outlines that acidic oligosaccharides formed in aqueous extracts from carrots (carrot soup) may lead to less adherence of bacterial agents to the mucosal wall of the bowel, thus being a more effective treatment for acute gastrointestinal infections of children than glucose-electrolyte-solution oral rehydration.

In 2009, experiments showed that Professor Moro's Carrot Soup can treat diarrhea caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

The Moro apple diet

In 1929, Professor Moro announced his later famous "apple diet" for the treatment of diarrheal conditions in children. When the entire Eugenien Hall was infected with a small house infection of enteritis, all the children ate raw apple porridge. The further clinical trial confirmed the trial. In Moro's opinion, the tannin content of raw grated apples caused certain detoxification processes to alleviate the symptoms of dyspepsia, dysentery, and agitation-like illnesses.

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