Does my baby need Occupational Therapy?
People often wonder how soon can you tell a baby requires early intervention therapies. I thought I’d share a little bit based on my experience with my own son and babies I treat as well as common red flags from other parents. I hope it will help others.
First of all, parents just know! They have a gutt instinct and are always right. Sometimes as a mum, I know it’s hard to follow your own gutt especially when others around you say it’s too early or your child will grow out of it. Please know that as a parent, you know your child best.
Secondly, babies’ main daily living activities are to move, sleep, feed, and poop. Usually, if these areas are a challenge, you will have an idea that they need some support.
For my son, I knew as soon as he was born and we were moved into the maternity ward. He was the only baby constantly crying, he had a hard time with breast feeding – struggling to nurse more on one side, startled at every sound that went by, only wanted to be on his tummy being very uncomfortable on his back, had too great head control for a newborn, and was unable to fall asleep. Everybody, including strangers on the street, always commented on his head control (which was too good for his age because of tightness) and how alert he was (due to being in an over-stimulated state of arousal).
Babies benefit from Occupational Therapy when the following red flags are present:
– doesn’t mould their body to you when held, hates baby massage
– arches back, lifts head as a newborn (newborns should be able to turn their head and clear their airway but not hold up their head yet)
– only sleeps or soothes with intense movement input
– needs to be held all of the time
– startles to sounds easily, appears on edge or in distress, doesn’t like busy places
– very alert (as in sensitive to all sounds, sights, movements)
– difficulty sleeping, takes hours to fall asleep
– unable to tolerate sitting in car seat or stroller
– difficulty with car rides
– becomes upset when laid down on their back for diaper and clothing changes
– described as ‘colicky,’ upset or unable to settle
– doesn’t move and prefers sedentary play
– does not interact or make eye contact with parents
– only wants to lay on stomach and cannot tolerate laying on back (due to strong back muscles, weak flexors, and overall imbalance of muscles on front and back of body)
-arches body backwards
– flat spot on head, turns head more toward one side
– uses one side of body more than other side – babies do not have a hand preference or sidedness
– delayed motor milestones
– moves to one side only such as rolls or comes up to sit via one side
– tightness in limbs during dressing, diaper changes, or bathing – parents may feel arms are stiff to get into sleeves, or legs do not open for diaper changes
– motor milestones are a bit delayed
– doesn’t move, described as ‘lazy’
– nurses better on one side or unable to nurse on both sides
– pulls away from breast
– difficulty figuring out how to latch on during breast feeding
– takes excessive time to nurse
– difficulty drinking from the bottle, liquid pooling out at sides
– drools on one side of mouth, smiles a bit wonky
– difficulty transitioning to foods, refuses to eat
– does not put toys in mouth for exploration
These are just some examples. If you have any concerns about your child’s development, please see an occupational therapist right away. Do not wait and see. Start early, there’s so much to do from the beginning versus when the child starts school and skills become ingrained. Babies are like sponges due to brain plasticity. Its really so encouraging to see how quickly they respond with the right support and early intervention.