Pediatric Physiotherapy – When is the right time to get help for your baby

Babies learn so much in the first year of their lives, and so much of that learning comes from moving their bodies. From their first attempt to lift their head, to their first (or millionth) step, there are a lot of changes to get excited about!

Unless you are a health professional trained in infant development, it can be super hard to know if your kiddo is developing normally, what milestones they should be meeting, and whether they’re on track to meet them.

A paediatric physiotherapist can help your child reach these motor milestones, and ensure that they are moving in a way that best supports their physical development. The following are some of the reasons families bring their child to a paediatric physiotherapist.

Your baby feels more “floppy” than other babies when you pick them up

Our muscle tone is our muscle’s resistance to movement. We all have baseline muscle tone, and typical muscle tone can vary from mildly floppy (less resistance to movement), to mildly stiff (more resistance to movement). Some people have muscle tone that falls outside of what would be considered typical. When a baby has low muscle tone, learning to activate their muscles effectively can be more difficult, and you may see a delay in their motor milestones. A physiotherapist can assess their muscle tone, and provide exercises to help strengthen their core, progress their mobility, and ensure their muscles are developing symmetrically.

Your baby has flattening on one side of their head, or across the back of their head

These conditions are called plagiocephaly and brachycephaly, respectively, and they are very common! Because your baby’s skull bones don’t fuse until around 1 year old, their head shape shifts if pressure is consistently on one part of their skull. A physiotherapist can help assess your child’s neck movement, and provide you with exercises and recommendations to help reduce pressures on your child’s head.

Your baby has a strong preference to look to one side

You may notice that your baby turns their head readily to one side, but seems to resist looking to the other side. This is typically referred to as torticollis, and is often the result of intrauterine positioning, that may have caused shortening of one side of their neck muscles. This can often go hand-in-hand with plagiocephaly. A physiotherapist is integral to management of torticollis, and will use both stretches and strengthening exercises to correct the imbalance.

Your baby was born prematurely

Premature babies go through so much in the first few months of their lives! A physiotherapist will help to support premature babies in reaching early milestones, assess for atypical movement patterns, and address any physical complications arising from a long NICU stay (plagiocephaly and torticollis are common ones!)

Your baby is hitting milestones late

It is important to remember that there is a broad typical spectrum for when babies achieve their motor milestones. As such, you will find varying guidelines for when to be concerned. In general: if your baby does not tolerate tummy time by 3 months, is not sitting by 9 months, pulling to stand by a year, or walking by 18 months, seek out a physiotherapist for an assessment.

Your baby has club foot, or a birth injury such as a brachial plexus injury

A physiotherapist will give you stretches and massage therapy techniques to maintain muscle length, and teach you how to best strengthen the area.

Your baby has a congenital diagnosis

A physiotherapist is a core member of the early intervention team for children with congenital diagnoses, such as cerebral palsy, achondroplasia, Down Syndrome, Pradar-Willi Syndrome, or any condition that might delay early motor milestones.

Did you know you do not require a doctor’s referral to see a pediatric physiotherapist? Oona has a paediatric physiotherapist on staff, who is experienced working with children from birth to 18.

Reach out if you have any questions at all, or if you just want more information.

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