Newborns’ ‘Random’ Body Movements Are Helping Them Learn


As soon as they’re born newborns start moving their bodies around in seemingly random ways and it’s not simply for kicks these movements are actually helping them learn and develop.

At birth babies are starting to map out their world, said Deborah Filippi, a neonatologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

In a study published Wednesday in the journal Current Biology, Filippi and her colleagues found that these early body movements help newborns figure out how their bodies work and how they fit into the world around them.

The researchers asked mothers of newborns to keep track of their babies body movements in the first two weeks of life. By the end of that period the babies had moved their heads more than 1,000 times. Their arms and legs more than 6,000 times.

The researchers observed the babies movements and found that they were highly varied and unpredictable. For example the babies would move their heads quickly to the left then to the right then up then down. 

What we found was that the babies were moving in all directions and not following any symmetrical patterns Filippi said.

This seemingly chaotic movement is actually extremely important for newborns, who are just starting to learn about their bodies and the world around them.

“The babies’ brains are trying to make sense of all the input they’re getting from their environment,” Filippi said.

By moving their bodies around in all directions, newborns are able to learn about the shape and size of their heads, the location of their arms and legs, and how they move in relation to the objects and people around them.

“This is the first time we’ve been able to show that these movements are actually beneficial and necessary for development,” Filippi said.

So the next time you see a newborn wriggling around in all directions, don’t be surprised; it’s all part of their important process of learning and development.

The Researchers Observed Two Groups Of Infants.

When a baby is born they enter a world of new sights, smells and sounds and as any parent can attest newborns are constantly on the move. While it may seem like their movements are random, new research suggests that these exploratory movements are actually helping newborns learn about their new environment.

In a study recently published in the journal Science researchers found that infants who are allowed to move around freely explore their environment more and as a result learn more about it. To come to this conclusion the researchers observed two groups of infants. The first group was placed in a muslin cloth sling that allowed them to move around freely while the second group was confined to a stationary crib. The researchers found that the infants in the first group were more engaged with their environment and as a result learned more about it.

This isn’t the first time that researchers have found that newborns’ movements play an important role in their development. Previous studies have shown that infants who are regularly stimulated with various kinds of movements (such as being bounced or jiggled) tend to develop better motor skills and are less likely to suffer from problems such as cerebral palsy.

So the next time you see your baby wiggling around and kicking their legs don’t think that they’re just being fidgety now that they’re actually learning and exploring their new world.


Since newborns’ movements are random this process helps them learn how to move their bodies. As they get older they will be able to move more purposefully.

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