Understanding Newborn Scrunch: What It Is and Why It Happens

Understanding Newborn Scrunch: What It Is and Why It Happens

Image Source: Baby Sleep Dr

Welcoming a newborn into the world is a magical experience filled with wonder and excitement. As new parents, you may marvel at every little movement and sound your precious bundle makes. One standard behavior you may notice in your newborn is the adorable scrunching up of their little body. But what exactly is this newborn scrunch, and why does it happen? Let's understand the meaning of the newborn scrunch, how long it typically lasts, and how to navigate the stage. 


Understanding a Newborn Scrunch

The newborn scrunch, or fetal tuck or curl, is a reflexive behavior that infants exhibit from birth. This instinctual response is thought to mimic their position in the womb, a cozy and compact space where they were curled up in a fetal position. When you observe your newborn scrunching up their legs and arms, it is their way of seeking comfort and security, reminiscent of their time in the womb.


Understanding the newborn scrunch as a natural reflex helps parents feel reassured that their little ones are simply responding to their innate instincts. This behavior occurs in newborns as they adjust to life outside the womb and navigate new sensations and environments.


Learn morePreparing for Parenthood: Tips for New and Expectant Parents


The Importance of Newborn Scrunch


Newborn Baby Scrunch

Image Source: The Jerusalem Post

Comfort and Security

The scrunched position mimics the fetal position in the womb, providing comfort and a sense of security for the newborn. This helps soothe the baby and reduce stress from the womb to the external world.



Keeping limbs close to the body helps protect the newborn's delicate joints and bones from injury. This self-protective mechanism is essential as their muscles and bones are still developing.



The scrunched position helps newborns conserve body heat, which is vital for maintaining their body temperature. Newborns have an immature thermoregulatory system and can lose heat quickly, so this position aids in keeping them warm.


Neurological Development

The scrunched position results from high muscle tone, which is part of neurological development. This muscle tone helps support muscle growth and strengthening and motor control development.


Reflexes: The scrunched position demonstrates many primitive reflexes, such as the Moro and grasp reflexes. These reflexes are essential for survival and help develop the nervous system.


Signs of Newborn Scrunch


Baby Scrunch

Image Source: Romper

Tightly Flexed Limbs: The baby keeps their arms and legs close to their body, often with fists clenched and knees bent.


Curved Posture: The baby maintains a slightly curved posture, similar to the fetal position.


Flexor Muscle Tone: High muscle tone in the flexor muscles results in tight and rigid limbs at rest.


Resistance to Stretching: The baby may resist gently stretching out its limbs, preferring to return to the scrunched position.


Comfort in Swaddling: When swaddled tightly, the baby shows signs of comfort and calmness, mimicking the scrunched position.


How Long Does the Newborn Scrunch Last?

Parents may wonder how long their newborn will continue to display the scrunching behavior. The newborn scrunch usually peaks in the first few weeks after birth as infants adapt to their new surroundings and explore their range of movements. During this time, your baby may frequently scrunch up their legs and arms while sleeping or being held.


As your newborn grows and develops, the frequency and intensity of the scrunch may gradually decrease. By around 2-3 months, many infants start to outgrow this reflexive behavior as they become more mobile and engage in activities requiring more significant movement and coordination. While the newborn scrunch may persist in some babies for a bit longer, it typically diminishes by the end of the first trimester.


Check outNewborn Baby Care Tips: A Quick Guide For First-Time Parents


Outlining The Causes of Newborn Scrunch

Newborn scrunch is a normal behavior in the early weeks of a babys life. It is primarily due to muscle tone and development, comfort and security, reflexes, neurological immaturity, intrauterine positioning, thermoregulation, and swaddling practices. Babies will gradually stretch out and explore their range of motion as they grow and develop.


1. Muscle Tone and Development

Newborns are born with high muscle tone, especially in the flexor muscles that keep their limbs close to their bodies. This high muscle tone is a natural part of their development, helping to protect their delicate limbs and maintain the fetal position they were accustomed to in the womb. Over the first few weeks to months of life, as their muscles begin to strengthen and lengthen, this muscle tone will gradually decrease, allowing them to stretch out more.


2. Comfort and Security

The fetal position provides a sense of comfort and security for newborns. After spending nine months in a snug, confined space, being swaddled or held in a position that mimics the womb can help them feel safe and secure. This sense of security is vital for their emotional and psychological development.


3. Reflexes

Newborns are born with several primitive reflexes that contribute to the scrunching behavior. The Moro reflex, for example, is an automatic response to sudden movements or loud noises, causing them to scrunch up and then extend their arms and legs. The grasp reflex also causes them to curl their fingers and toes. These reflexes are vital for survival and gradually diminish as the baby grows.


4. Neurological Immaturity

At birth, a newborns neurological system is still developing. The brain and nervous system are not fully mature, which affects muscle control and movement patterns. The scrunched position is a result of this neurological immaturity. As the brain matures and neural pathways develop, the baby will gain better control over their movements and stretch out more frequently.


5. Intrauterine Positioning

A baby's position during the final weeks of pregnancy can influence its post-birth posture. If a baby was in a tightly curled position in the womb, they might prefer this position after birth. This is especially true for babies who were in a breech position or had less room to move due to multiple births or a smaller uterine space.


6. Thermoregulation

Newborns have immature thermoregulatory systems and can lose body heat quickly. Keeping their limbs close to their body helps conserve heat, maintaining their body temperature. Parents often swaddle newborns to help, further encouraging the scrunched position.


7. Swaddling Practices

Swaddling is a common practice that involves wrapping a baby snugly in a blanket to mimic the warmth and security of the womb. While swaddling can help soothe a baby and reduce crying, it also reinforces the scrunched position. Over time, as babies become more accustomed to their new environment, they will naturally start to extend their limbs more often.


Parental Tips to Navigate the Newborn Scrunch

As a parent, witnessing your newborn scrunching up their tiny body can be both endearing and intriguing. While the newborn scrunch is a natural reflex that most infants exhibit, there are ways to help ease your baby's discomfort and encourage their physical development. Here are some tips for navigating the newborn scrunch with ease:


1. Provide a cozy and snug environment for your baby to rest in, such as a swaddle or a soft blanket that mimics the feeling of being nestled in the womb.

2. Gently massage your baby's limbs and back to help soothe tension and promote relaxation.

3. Encourage tummy time and supervised play on a soft surface to help strengthen your baby's muscles and improve their motor skills.

4. Use baby carriers or wraps to keep your little one close to you while allowing them to explore their surroundings securely and comfortably.

5. Create a calming bedtime routine with gentle movements and soothing sounds to help your baby relax and sleep peacefully.

Incorporating these strategies into your daily routine can support your baby's physical development and help them quickly transition from the newborn scrunch.


Also readLearn How to Swaddle a Newborn Baby: A Step-by-Step Guide


Tips on Choosing the Right Baby Clothing 

Choosing the proper baby clothing and using effective swaddling techniques can support the comfort and development of a newborn exhibiting the scrunched position:


Soft, Stretchy Fabrics: Choose clothing made from soft, stretchy fabrics that allow movement and do not restrict the babys natural scrunched position.


Avoid Tight Clothing: Avoid clothing that is too tight or restrictive, especially around the limbs and torso, to allow for natural movement and flexibility.


Layering: Use layers to keep the baby warm rather than tight-fitting clothes, ensuring easy temperature regulation.


Footed Pajamas: They can keep the babys feet warm while allowing them to maintain their scrunched position comfortably.


Easy Access for Diaper Changes: Choose clothing with easy access for diaper changes to minimize disturbances to the baby.


Learning the Correct Swaddling Techniques


Safe Swaddling: Swaddle the baby snugly but not too tightly, ensuring enough room for the hips and legs to move and bend naturally.


Hip-Friendly Swaddling: Use hip-friendly swaddling techniques that allow the babys legs to stay in a natural, flexed position. Avoid tight swaddling around the hips and legs to prevent hip dysplasia.


Swaddle Blankets: Use soft, breathable blankets to avoid overheating and ensure the babys comfort.


Swaddle Sacks: Consider using swaddle sacks, sleep sacks, or wearable blankets that provide a snug fit around the upper body while allowing the legs to move freely.


Arms Up Swaddle: Some babies prefer having their arms up near their faces, which can be accommodated by specific swaddle designs that keep the baby secure while allowing arm movement.


Monitoring Temperature: Ensure the baby does not overheat by regularly checking their temperature and adjusting the swaddling layers accordingly.


Gradual Transition: As the baby grows and starts to stretch out more, gradually transition to swaddling with one arm out, then both arms out, to help them adapt to sleeping without swaddling.



The newborn scrunch is a fascinating reflexive behavior that infants exhibit as they adjust to life outside the womb. Understanding the meaning of the newborn scrunch, how long it typically lasts, and when it goes away can help parents navigate this phase with confidence and insight. You can help your little one grow and thrive by providing a nurturing and supportive environment while embracing their adorable scrunching movements. Embrace this precious time with your newborn and cherish every moment of their development and growth.

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