Hypotonia in babies

Hypotonia is a symptom, not a disease. In fact, it’s a very common symptom of many (hundreds) of syndromes and diseases and can be caused by many different conditions. And it can also just be unexplained (congenital benign hypotonia).

In a nutshell, hypotonia (‘low muscle tone’), means the muscles have less tension in them at rest than they should.

Low – toned muscles contract very slowly in response to a stimulus and cannot maintain a contraction for as long as a normal muscle.

Low muscle tone is different from muscle weakness, which describes the tension in muscles when they’re working or contracted. Most babies with hypotonia do have some muscle weakness, and this can be improved significantly with Baby Functional movement therapy to strengthen.

Muscle tone is controlled by the brain and does not change significantly with exercise (although a child can appear to be improving a lot as a result of strengthening).


Baby's appearance 


Hypotonia also called floppy infant syndrome or infantile hypotonia because the babies with hypotonia tend to feel floppy, soft and squishy. Sometimes it feels like holding ‘room temperature’s' butter. Particularly when they are physically tired we could also call them ‘puddles of babies’.


So, How do you know your if the baby is hypotonic?


Hypotonic babies, therefore, have a typical "floppy" appearance. They rest with their elbows and knees loosely extended, while babies with normal muscle tone tend to have flexed elbows and knees.

Head control is usually poor or absent in the floppy babies with the head falling to the side, backward, or forward.

Babies with normal tone can be lifted by placing hands under their armpits, while hypotonic babies tend to slip between the hands as their arms rise unresistingly upward.

While most babies tend to flex their elbows and knees when resting, hypotonic babies hang their arms and legs limply by their sides. Infants with this condition often lag behind in reaching the fine and gross motor developmental milestones that enable infants to hold their heads up when placed on the stomach, balance themselves, or get into a sitting position and remain seated without falling over.

Hypotonia is also characterized by problems with:

- Mobility and posture

- Lethargy,

- Weak ligaments and joints and

- Poor reflexes


Baby Functional Movement program can improve the state of hypotonia in healthy babies!


Babies with hypotonia have to work harder to hold themselves up and to move against gravity and many have loose (hypermobile) joints - particularly in hips and ankles.


Observe your baby!


‘Often a child is first suspected of having hypotonia when they are significantly delayed in upright milestones - delayed sitting, standing and walking’


Again, hypotonia is a condition of decreased muscle tone. The low muscle tone can be caused by a variety of conditions and is often indicative of the presence of an underlying

- Central nervous system disorder,

- Genetic disorder, or

- Muscle disorder


Muscle tone is the amount of tension or resistance to movement in a muscle. It is not the same as muscle weakness, which is a reduction in the strength of a muscle, but it can co-exist with muscle weakness.

Muscle tone indicates the ability of a muscle to respond to a stretch.

(For example, if the flexed arm of a child with normal tone is quickly straightened, the flexor muscle of the arm (biceps) will quickly contract in response).

Once the stimulus is removed, the muscle then relaxes and returns to its normal resting state. A child with low muscle tone has muscles that are slow to start a muscle contraction. Muscles contract very slowly in response to a stimulus and cannot maintain a contraction for as long as a normal muscle. Because low-toned muscles do not fully contract before they again relax, they remain loose and very stretchy, never achieving their full potential of sustaining a muscle contraction over time.

Each baby may experience different symptoms, depending on the underlying cause of the hypotonia however here are some Common symptoms associated with hypotonia:

- Decreased muscle tone; muscles feel soft and doughy

- Ability to extend limb beyond its normal limit

- Failure to acquire motor skill developmental milestones (such as holding head up without support from parent, rolling over, sitting up without support, walking)

- Feeding problems (inability to suck or chew for prolonged periods)

- Shallow breathing

- Mouth hangs open with tongue protruding (underactive gag reflex)


Be aware!


Normally developing children tend to develop motor skills, posture control, and movement skills by a certain months.

Motor skills are divided into two categories. 

- Baby Functional Movement gross motor skills include the ability of an infant to lift its head while lying on the stomach, to roll over from its back to its stomach. Normally, by a given age, a child develops the gross motor skills required to get into a sitting position and remain seated without falling over, crawl, walk, run, and jump. 

- Baby Functional Movement fine motor skills include the ability to grasp, transfer an object from one hand to another, point out an object, follow a toy or a person with the eyes, or to feed oneself. Hypotonic children are slow to develop these skills, and parents should contact their pediatrician if they notice such delays or if their child appears to lack muscle control, especially if the child previously seemed to have normal muscle control.

Hypotonia is normally discovered within the first few months of life. Since it is associated with many different underlying disorders.


Still unsure whether your baby developed hypotonia?


With Baby Functional Movement program, a physical examination will be performed, usually including muscle function examination.

Our Physical Baby Functional Movement therapy can improve fine motor control and overall body strength. (Therapy for babies may also include sensory stimulation programs).

Specific treatment for hypotonia is determined by:

- The baby's age, overall health, and medical history

- The extent of the condition

- The underlying cause of the condition

- The baby's tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies

- Expectations for the course of the condition

- Parent opinion or preference


Next step?


Parents of a hypotonic baby must follow the treating of Baby Functional Movement PT's orders for treatment of the underlying cause.

They must also educate themselves and learn about certain exercises and always make sure correct BABY FUNCTIONAL HANDLING is in place when lifting and carrying the hypotonic baby.

Professionals in the field of working with babies can become recognised Baby Functional Movement practitioners around the globe and share our mission for optimal baby's development within first year.




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