Does Your Baby Need Physiotherapy?

by Brittany Kafka

Every movement, every skill, every sound, sight, and taste are new to babies. In the first couple of years, it is truly incredible all the things that infants learn to do, from rolling to sitting to walking!  Given the vast amount of development that occurs, it’s really no wonder some children might have trouble learning some of these motor skills.

Physiotherapy can help a baby overcome difficulties in motor skill development, such as rolling or crawling, by providing appropriate exercises to increase strength, adapting play positions and strategies to facilitate development. Not only that, but your pediatric physiotherapist will be sure to provide you with education on child development so you know exactly what to expect along the way

Why do babies need physiotherapy?

Babies can need physiotherapy for a variety of reasons. The top three reasons babies need physiotherapy are torticollis, congenital disorders, and delays in gross motor milestones.

Torticollis occurs when one of the baby’s neck muscles becomes shortened and tight. This can occur from positioning or birth complications and can be noticed by the baby having a head tilt, a preference to look one way, and/or preferring to feed on one side. Addressing torticollis is important because it can lead to motor delays later in development.

Congenital Disorders
Congenital disorders, such as down syndrome or cerebral palsy, can delay motor development and create challenges in playtime. These conditions predispose infants to differences in timelines and ability for development, which a physiotherapist can help you better understand.

Motor Milestone Delays
Delays in gross motor milestones such as rolling, crawling, sitting, or walking are very common and often result from a lack of strength. Every baby will develop on their own timeline; however, plateaus with the development of new skills is an indicator your baby may benefit from physiotherapy.

Physiotherapy can help address any muscle tightness, strengthen the appropriate muscles, and provide adaptations and exercises to the play environment that help facilitate appropriate development in all of these conditions.

Signs that your baby might need physio:

  • A plateau in their motor development
  • Delays in motor milestones
  • Difficulty with tummy time
  • Flattening of the back or side of the head
  • Head tilt to one side and/or preference in looking one way
  • Low tone (feeling floppy)
  • Congenital diagnoses such as cerebral palsy or down syndrome
  • Birth injuries such as clubfoot or a brachial plexus injury
  • Preference to use one side for motor skills

How does a physio session with my infant look?

In an initial assessment with you and your infant, you will be asked questions to help build a complete and comprehensive picture of you and your infant. You will be asked about the birth and pregnancy, any complications, the infant’s current skills and timelines they were achieved in, their sleeping, feeding, and communication skills, tummy time, your goals, and more.

Your infant will be observed in all age-appropriate positions (lying on their back, tummy, side, and sitting/standing if appropriate). The therapist will engage in play with your infant to see how they move and play as well as any limitations that may exist. Based on their findings, the therapist will create a treatment plan for you and your infant including frequency and timing of visits, and skills to be worked on. The therapist will provide you with education for at-home modifications and how to structure play therapeutically, as well as any specific exercises or stretches required.

Throughout treatment, your infant’s progress will be assessed through observation and information from you. We will modify and progress skills and play as appropriate to build strength and continue to facilitate development. Treatment will include age-appropriate therapeutic play and hands-on strategies as required.

What can physio do for babies?

Physiotherapy can help your infant build the strength, practice, and support they require to help them continue to develop their motor skills. Physiotherapy can also provide you with education on development and how best to support this at home.

Motor skills are vital in navigating our world, and it is important we support these skills and growth early!

Brittany Kafka

Brittany Kafka

Physiotherapist - BSc Hons (Kin), MSc PT

What next? 

If you have an infant or child who could benefit from a physiotherapy assessment, book an appointment with our in-house pediatric Registered Physiotherapist, Brittany Kafka, at Synergy East, today! She facilitates a safe, engaging, and welcoming environment to make physiotherapy fun for your kid!

You can call us to book a consultation at (416) 551-8715, or simply book online.

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