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How to Help Low Muscle Tone in Infants

author image Kay Ireland
Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.
How to Help Low Muscle Tone in Infants
A baby having tummy time. Photo Credit bukharova/iStock/Getty Images

Low muscle tone in infants, known as hypotonia, may cause your baby to feel like a rag doll at times. Even an older infant with low muscle tone may be difficult to hold, since his arms and legs rise without resistance. A floppy head and neck, jerky movements or relaxing with extended limbs all point to a possible issue, which left unchecked could become a serious problem for your baby's future motor development and coordination. Working with your doctor, you can choose a treatment plan to help exercise your baby's muscle tone for strength.

Step 1

Talk with your pediatrician about the depth of your baby's low muscle tone. For some, it's a symptom of a serious condition, such as an infection, Down syndrome, hypothyroidism or neurological issues. Premature babies also have a higher risk of hypotonia, since they are less developed at birth.

Step 2

Swaddle your baby whenever possible. Swaddling can help with muscle tone, notes St. Mary's Hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, since your baby has something to resist against. Ensure that when you swaddle your baby, her nose and mouth are clear of the blanket to avoid a suffocation risk.

Step 3

Place your baby on her tummy on a blanket on the floor, with her head to one side, and entice her to lift her head using toys and noises. This can help your baby increase muscle tone in her head and neck. Check with your doctor before you implement "tummy time" like this.

Step 4

Enable independent sitting, crawling and other activities for your baby. Hypotonia can affect your baby's motor development, which can then affect her development as she ages into a toddler, preschooler and beyond. If your baby's hypotonia is mild and not related to a serious condition, daily exercise can help increase his overall muscle tone.

Step 5

Schedule regular appointments with your pediatrician to monitor your baby's progress. Your doctor may suggest meeting with a physical therapist, who can help you learn new exercises to try at home. He will also need to monitor the underlying conditions causing your infant's hypotonia, so it's important to attend all appointments.

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