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The Newborn Curl: A Natural Reflex in Your Baby

Updated: Nov 14, 2023

Newborn curl in hospital Jacksonville, FL

You're home from the hospital and it's starting to really sink in, this is real!

As parents, you're excited to nurture and protect your little one, and one of the first things you do after all the snuggles possible is lay them in their bassinet on their back. However, it's not uncommon for new parents to return moments later and find their newborn has "rolled" onto their side in a fetal position.

This phenomenon might seem puzzling and even a bit alarming but fear not. What you're witnessing is known as the "newborn curl," a common and natural occurrence that we'll explore in this blog.

swaddled Newborn Curled onto side

Understanding the Newborn Curl

The newborn curl, also referred to as the fetal curl, is a surprising yet entirely normal behavior observed in many newborns. It's a reflexive action that may appear mysterious at first, but it's essential to recognize that your baby is not trying to roll onto their side; it's an involuntary response.

The phenomenon typically occurs when a baby is placed on their back, and they instinctively curl up into a fetal position, with their tiny arms and legs tucked close to their body. This position often mimics how they were positioned in the womb, and it's both a reflex and a comfort response.

Reasons Behind the Newborn Curl

Reflexive Behavior: The newborn curl is primarily a reflexive behavior. Babies are born with several reflexes that help them adapt to the outside world. The fetal position is one such reflex that provides comfort and security for the infant.

Familiarity: The fetal position replicates the snug environment of the womb. It's a comforting posture for babies because it feels familiar and secure.

Body Temperature Regulation: The fetal position is efficient for regulating body temperature, especially in the first few days after birth. It allows the baby to conserve heat by minimizing their surface area.

Muscular Development: The newborn curl helps to strengthen a baby's muscles. It's one of the ways they engage their core and extremities, gradually preparing them for future milestones like rolling over and crawling.

Should You Be Concerned?

In most cases, there is no cause for concern when you see the newborn curl. However, it's important to remain cautious and ensure that your baby is placed on their back for sleep, as recommended by pediatric experts to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

If your newborn is consistently rolling onto their side during sleep and seems uncomfortable or restless, one of the first things we recommend is to consider swaddling them in a safe and breathable swaddle blanket. Always consult with your pediatrician if you have concerns about your baby's sleep or movements.

A Fascinating Phenomenon

The "newborn curl" is an entirely natural phenomenon that occurs when a baby is placed on their back. But, talk about panic when you have no idea why or how it's happening and you're exhausted, but in a protective mama bear state! While you may be initially alarmed about finding your baby in the newborn curl position, rest assured that it's a temporary and safe behavior. This reflex stops within a few weeks of birth.

Our team at The JBC is familiar with the newborn curl and the other normal newborn "oddities"!

Having one-on-one support by your side from one of our Postpartum and Infant Care Specialists when you transition home makes it all a lot less alarming. Just knowing that we are familiar with this reflexive response, can explain it, and provide a watchful eye while you get rest is a great comfort to new parents.

newborn sleeping in fetal position

Below there are two photo examples of the newborn curl!

While this newborn is not on an AAP-approved sleep surface, this photo was taken with the mom sitting right next to her baby. We like these photos because you can clearly see this newborn curl reflex!

I hope you found this blog helpful! Here is a YouTube Video that talks about rolling at all stages!

CEO sits in hammock swing and is smiling

Authored by Elizabeth Luke

Elizabeth is the founder and CEO of The Jacksonville Baby Company. Elizabeth and her husband and best friend, Richard are parents to four children. With certifications in Postpartum and Infant Care Support, Childbirth and Newborn Care Education, Lactation Support, and Infant Sleep, she is a wealth of knowledge and has a heart that is passionate about helping parents live their best lives while also ensuring their children are safe, happy, and leading their healthiest lives possible! Contact us today to book support!

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