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Signs your baby may need a physiotherapist

Magdalena Adaś
Signs your baby may need a physiotherapist

As a parent, you want to be sure of the best possible development for your child, so you keep a close eye on your baby. You wonder when to go to a physiotherapist with your infant. The first weeks of the toddler’s life are especially important. Already then you can catch the first symptoms of asymmetry, or disturbed muscle tone – reduced or increased. When observing the baby, focus both on the reactions he presents, as well as his posture, movements and body positioning in different positions. You can’t always pick up everything on your own. So when should you go to a physiotherapist? What are the signs your baby may need a physiotherapist?

When should I see a physiotherapist for my baby?

Worrisome signs your baby may need a physiotherapist

In the first weeks of life, babies are just learning about their bodies, and the positioning in the mother’s abdomen determines their posture. Therefore, for example, a baby who quickly descended into the birth canal and adopted an abnormal, asymmetrical position may also present asymmetry in the first weeks of life. It is important that this asymmetry is less and less visible. If, on the other hand, with each passing day you can see that the child increasingly prefers one side, you should see a physiotherapist.

Another worrying sign is clenched fists. In the first 3 months of life, it is normal for a baby to clench its fists. However, the toddler should open these fists freely when trying to catch something, or when a parent tries to open them. If your baby clenches its fists tightly and hides thumb inside, it may be a concerning sign. It is also worrisome that clenched fists make the baby-care difficult on a daily basis.

How to assess and observe babies?

As you evaluate your baby, check whether it is developing adequately for its age. You can read more about development in my toddler development calendar. Check here for a baby in the first six months of life and here for children aged 7-12 months. In addition to achieving individual milestones and key skills within specific timeline, variety and spontaneity of motor responses are also important. A healthy baby is one who is interested in the world around him, focuses his eyes on his parent, plays with his hands, puts them in his mouth likes to move and change positions. It can be a worrisome sign if the baby sleeps all day and night. It is also worrisome if the baby does not show any desire to eat and the breast is given by force, and the toddler is sucking asleep. And certainly do not wait if the baby is not gaining weight.

How do you check muscle tone in babies?

A baby with normal muscle tone is “easy to handle”. That is, managing the baby while changing is not too problematic. And when carrying the baby, it lies stable, does not pull out, eagerly sucks the breast, likes to lie on its tummy, and its psycho-motor development does not deviate from the norm. A toddler who has trouble sucking at the breast may be of concern. Perhaps there is a disordered muscle tone, which is worth normalizing so that you do not have to give up this way of feeding. Or perhaps the frenulum is too short? When you hold the baby from the bean position, you should feel the weight of the baby’s body. If the baby spills out of your hands and you feel like you have to use a lot of force to stabilise it, you may suspect reduced muscle tone. If, on the other hand, the baby strains in your arms, bends his head, is hard to hold, and the bean position is even impossible to maintain, you may suspect increased muscle tension. This is a situation when it is worth going to a physiotherapist with your infant.

How can a physiotherapist help?

Physiotherapy for infants can help with all of the above-mentioned problems. Infant physiotherapy is effective both in terms of restoring normal muscle tone, teaching specific motor skills, and treating asymmetry or other infant problems like dysplasia, colic or reflux. It is also important to remember about premature babies, who very often require constant supervision by a physiotherapist. Toddlers born prematurely need extra time to achieve the skills in question. Often the body grows faster than motor skills, and then it is worth helping the toddler to make his development as close to normal as possible.

The role of the parent in the rehabilitation process

The role of the parent in the therapy process is huge. In my opinion, there is no point in starting therapy with your child if you are not going to follow the physiotherapist’s recommendations. Often it is the home exercises and daily habits that are the key to the success of a young child’s therapy. The physiotherapist merely puts the finishing touches on the details in therapy, loosening up what is not available to the parent’s eye. Even daily work with the therapist will not be effective if the parent does not join in the process.


After reading the article, you can tell signs that your baby may need a physiotherapist. To summarise, the most common problems that parents of infants report to a physiotherapist are: delayed development, asymmetry, impaired muscle tone, feeding problems, colic, reflux and hip dysplasia. Most of these problems can be easily overcome with regular work with a physiotherapist. In the therapeutic process, the role of the parent is extremely important. Therefore, I encourage you to take an active part in the process.



Author: mgr Magdalena Adaś

I am a pediatric physiotherapist. This job is my dream and passion. In addition to directly supporting patients, I try to make sure that the knowledge of proper child care reaches as many parents as possible. Hence my online activities. My materials are used by thousands of parents every month.