Hippocampal sharp waves (SPWs) are among the earliest neural population patterns observed in infant mammals. Similarly, startles are among the earliest behavioral events observed. Here we provide evidence indicating that these two events are linked mechanistically soon after birth in freely moving and head-fixed 1 to 4-day-old rats. EMG electrodes and intrahippocampal silicon depth electrodes were used to detect the presence of startles and SPWs, respectively. In intact pups, the majority of sharp waves were preceded by startles (average latency: 161 ms). When the hippocampal formation was surgically separated from the brainstem, however, sharp waves and startles still occurred, but now independently. In addition, unrelated to startles or SPWs, gamma oscillations were detected in several subjects, as were neocortical "spindles" that propagated passively into the hippocampus. The co-occurrence of sharp waves and startles provides the opportunity for Hebbian changes in synaptic efficacy and, thus, is poised to contribute to the assembly of neural circuits early in development.