Floppy baby Syndrome Explained

(Last Updated On: February 23, 2017)

The superpower of parenthood lies in acting as nature’s most effective shield for your infant’s health, guarding staunchly against things that carry the potential to cause discomfort or harm to your toddler! However, despite your unmatched efforts, your baby might still fall prey to a number of unforeseen conditions, the most common of those being what is commonly known as ‘Floppy Baby Syndrome.’ While babies are generally floppy at a tender age, with time their muscles strengthen, to the effect that they are then able to sit, stand, and walk on their own. In the case of extremely low-toned muscles, the contraction that results as a natural response to stimuli is rendered tremendously slow, much unlike the workings of a normal muscle. This precise condition is termed a ‘hypotonia’, which manifests in young children of age ranging between 6 to 12 months. It is not synonymous to muscle weakness, but may often co-exist with it.

Infantile hypotonia may be the result of a number of reasons and may serve as an implication of an underlying case of a genetic disorder, nervous system disorder, or acute muscle frailties. Muscle tone refers to the ability of the muscles to suitably respond to stretches. A child affected with the aforementioned condition experiences the inability to contract its muscles with the speed considered to be appropriate. The low-tone muscles then don’t happen to contract fully before they tend to relax, and remain severely stretchy and loose throughout, unable to achieve a proper and complete potential for sustaining a proper contraction over time. The babies thus acquire a ‘floppy’ appearance- the head control tends to be poor, infants often rest with the knees and elbows extended loosely, and the legs and arms hang limply most of the time. This could even hinder speech and cause difficulty in chewing or sucking for long spells.

While the direct causes of Hypotonia are difficult to encircle, scientists hold the opinion that the medical condition may be triggered by any traumatic incidento or be succeeded by terminal disorders that relate to genetic conditions or the workings of the central nervous system.


The signs implying hypotonia are many, varying with respect to the cause underlying each condition:

  1. Doughy and soft muscles that exhibit decrease in their tone
  2. Shallow and uneven breathing
  3. The limbs show capacity to be extended beyond the natural limit
  4. Gross delay in the development of motor skills
  5. Underactive gag reflex (the mouth being open and the tongue sticking out) is dominant

Under general circumstances, no such treatment therapy is recommended for mild congenital hypotonia, but periodical check-ups might become a necessity for conditions directly associated with the problem, such as frequent incidences of joint dislocations. When prompted by an underlying condition, addressing ‘Floppy Baby’ Syndrome becomes a more elaborate affair since it necessitates that the condition underlying it is treated first. It is then quickly followed by supportive and symptomatic therapy for hypotonia. Physiotherapy aids in enhancing motor control and improves the strength of the body. For children and infants, therapy could also encompass sensory stimulation programs. On the other hand, occupational therapy, in addition to speech-language therapy can successfully alleviate problems related to speech, breathing, and difficulties associated with swallowing.

Treatment procedures help to increase the muscle strength, while sensory stimulation procedures are sought once the cause behind the syndrome is established. Programs of this nature mostly include rigorous physical therapy or other school-based programs, along with other suitable forms of therapeutic remedies. Children affected by this condition are usually treated by a neurologist, Development paediatrician, physical therapist, genticist, language/speech pathologist and occupational therapist. The world of otherwise typical children might prove to be a difficult one for the hypotonic one. Medical supervision and guidance must be followed religiously with no exemptions made in this regard. Close monitoring of the baby’s progress should then determine the number of follow-up procedures. With a proper treatment schedule, your child will soon race against his peers.

If you think your baby is unable to contract its muscles accompanied by a poor head control and floppy muscles, get in touch with a PORTEA physiotherapist today


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Dr.Rajprabha Patra practiced as a Dental Surgeon for 5 years before making a switch into the business domain with an MBA from ISB. As the Product Manager for Counselling Services at Portea, she aims to make a difference in the way mental health is perceived in India.


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