Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes refer to the automatic responses that newborn babies display when they are placed in different positions. They are primarily concerned with the baby’s balance and coordination and are generally classified as either tonic labyrinthine reflex (TLR) forward or TLR backward. These reflexes help to prepare the baby for voluntary movements and are typically replaced by more complex movements as the child grows and develops.

Key Takeaways

  1. Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes refer to the primitive reflexes present in newborns that help with survival and development. These reflexes are related to reactions to changes in head position and gravitational forces.
  2. There are two types of Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes – The Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) Forward and TLR Backward. The TLR Forward is triggered when a baby’s head is tilted forward, causing the baby to curl up. On the other hand, the TLR Backward is initiated when the head tilts backward, causing the baby to arch back.
  3. The third point is about the importance of these reflexes disappearing at the right stage of development. If the Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes remain active beyond the first year, it may impair the child’s motor skills development, learning, and behavior.


The term “Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes” (TLR) is important in the context of motherhood because they play a substantial role in a baby’s neurological development. TLRs are primitive reflexes found in newborn babies, disappearing as the child grows, generally around the first year of life.

They represent a response to changes in the position of the head relative to the body. The proper integration of these reflexes is critical to the child’s coordination, muscle tone, and sensory processing later in life.

Therefore, they are not only vital for survival and development in infancy, but they also lay the groundwork for essential motor skills like rolling, crawling, and walking, which all contribute to the child’s overall development. An understanding of TLRs can be helpful to mothers in supporting their children’s early development milestones.


Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes play a vital role in both the development and functionality of a child’s muscles and motor skills. Essentially, they comprise of two primary reflexes, namely the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) and Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR). These two reflexes are foundational to the development of body balance, muscle tone, and proprioception, which is the awareness of one’s body in space.

TLR reflex becomes visible at birth and is primarily responsible for developing head balance and muscle tone, whereas the STNR reflex comes into play around 6-9 months of age, and is key for crawling and refining coordination between the upper and lower body. These reflexes disappear or integrate as the child grows, rendering way for voluntary movements although, in certain cases, they may persist.

Consequently, this may lead to difficulties in learning, coordination, and sensory perception, and a condition known as Retained Primitive Reflexes. Thus, Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes are not only critical for a child’s early movement and development but also a tool for healthcare practitioners and therapists to understand any possible developmental delays or issues.

They are used as a diagnostic tool to determine neurodevelopmental disorders and their presence could be an indication to investigate deeper neurological issues.

Examples of Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes

The term “Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes” relates to two primitive reflexes in babies known as the Tonic Labyrinthine Reflex (TLR) and Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR). These are natural, subconscious reactions that appear from birth or develop shortly thereafter and usually disappear as the baby grows and matures. Here are three real-world examples:

Baby on the Tummy Time: When a baby is put on their tummy, they would naturally engage their TLR by curving their back upward, making them appear like a “hunched cat”. Many parents might observe this during the “tummy time”.

Crawling Motions: The Symmetrical Tonic Neck Reflex (STNR) is helpful when the baby starts learning how to crawl. When the baby moves their head upward while on all fours, the arms would instinctively straighten, and the legs would bend. In contrast, as the baby looks down, the arms bend and the legs straighten. This action, over time, helps in better coordination between their arms and legs for crawling.

Rolling Over: When a baby begins to roll over, you can see the impact of the tonic labyrinthine reflex. If the baby’s head tilts backwards, the arm and legs will extend (straighten), and if the baby’s head moves forward, the arms and legs will flex (bend). This assists in the process of rolling over and later in maintaining balance while sitting and standing.All these examples refer to the baby’s developmental phases and motor skills that are crucial for their growth and learning. Please note, if a baby’s primitive reflexes persist past the time they should disappear, it could signal a neurological issue, and professional advice should be sought.

Frequently Asked Questions about Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes

What are Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes?

Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes are primitive reflexes found in newborn babies, these reflexes are thought to promote survival instincts and help with the development of motor skills, they are usually integrated into the baby’s movement during the first year of life.

What does Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes have to do with motherhood?

Knowing about Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes is important for mothers because these reflexes indicate normal brain and motor development in the child. They can provide mothers with valuable insights into their baby’s neurological health.

What if the Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes do not fade?

If these reflexes do not fade, it may be an indication of developmental issues. In such cases, a healthcare provider should be consulted. They can provide guidance and resources to help overall development.

How is the Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes tested?

A healthcare provider can evaluate Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes through a series of physical tests that provoke the reflex. These simple assessments involve slightly changing the baby’s head position and observing the subsequent motor response.

Related Motherhood Terms

  • Moro Reflex
  • Newborn Reflexes
  • Primitive Reflexes
  • Baby’s First-year Developmental Milestones
  • Neonatal Neurology

Sources for More Information

  • Movement Learning: A site that dedicates itself to the understanding of movement as a part of learning and development, including reflex integration and the implications of Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes.
  • The HANDLE Institute: This organization provides a wealth of information about different reflexes, their function, and their potential impact on development when not properly integrated, such as Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes.
  • Integrated Learning Strategies (ILS): ILS is a learning and academic center that provides helpful information about many different aspects of child development, including the various primitive reflexes like Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes.
  • Sensation Newbridge: Sensation Newbridge is an occupational therapy clinic that offers a variety of resources for understanding different reflexes and neurological development, such as Tonic Labyrinth Reflexes.