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High vs. Low Muscle Tone Baby - How Muscle Tone is Developed at Birth

Things you might say if you have a baby with high or low muscle tone:

High Muscle Tone Baby (Child):

  • My baby is stiff
  • My baby can't bend their legs, their arms
  • My baby startles a lot
  • My baby is very colicky
  • My baby has bad reflux
  • My baby is delayed in their baby milestones

Low Muscle Tone Baby:

  • My baby is floppy
  • My baby is nonresponsive
  • My baby has no head support
  • My baby is delayed in their baby milestones


Atypical Development Baby and Hypotonia Muscle Tone or Low Tone Baby - 5 Low-tone Secrets


Atypical Development Baby and Hypotonia Muscle Tone or Low Tone Baby - 5 Low-tone Secrets


How Low and High Muscle Tone is Initiated at Birth 

During a natural delivery through the contractions of the mother, this is the first time that the baby gets to experience active and passive muscle response.

As the uterus contracts, the baby experiences the stimuli of active or high tone muscle, and the muscle tone transfers into the baby.

In between the contractions, the baby experiences passive or low tone muscle, and at the same time moves into position to be birthed. 

So when there are birthing complications, or a person elects for a C-section, the baby never fully experiences these contractions; already setting the baby's system up for muscle tone challenges. 

The contractions are significant because in the womb there is no oppositional force.

(Low-tone Optimal Development Jumpstart Program - Click Here)

High Tone Dominance Happens When...

In general but not always, when a child experiences some form of birth trauma like NICU, intubation, cord wrapped around the neck, PVL3, etc. the response of the baby's body is usually high tone.  

When a child's muscles are high tone, you usually hear things like, "My baby is stiff." You might hear, "My baby can't bend their legs," the baby "startles a lot," or "is colicky."

Also, you will usually get a higher chance of reflux because the ribs aren't expanding, or they can't expand due to the high muscle tone in the intercostals. 

Low Tone Dominance Happens When...

In a low tone situation, parents will say things like "my baby slides through my arms like silly putty," the "baby is floppy", or "non-responsive."

Often low tone children will have some sort of respiratory distress which can be identified with paradoxical breathing; meaning the kids are using their diaphragm to breathe instead of the intercostal muscles in the ribcage. 

(High-tone Optimal Development Jumpstart Program - Click Here)

If a child has low tone, more than likely it is an issue of rare genetics (ex. muscular dystrophies, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), etc.).

It's not always the case, but about 90% of the time children with rare genetics have a low tone response. Low tone children will often have a heavy head, with little to no head control, and they tend to slouch.

A baby should never slouch! 

Every Baby Needs to Be in Weight Transfer Mode to Experience Successful Functional Movement and Successful Milestone Development. Is Your Baby in Weight Transfer Mode?

From birth to walking, first, every child should be evaluated for their ability to weight transfer. This can be determined by a child's ability to rotate.


Some signs that indicate to you that the baby is not in weight transfer mode and lacks rotation is when you are told the baby needs to

  • Get stronger to accomplish tasks,
  • Relax or disengage to accomplish tasks,
  • or you have a lazy baby and he or she will grow out of it. 

Please note that there is NO SUCH THING AS A LAZY BABY.



I must reiterate babies are meant to respond to stimuli with rotational movements through weight transfer.

What does weight transfer mean?

When a baby is in weight transfer mode, the baby never has to work to accomplish a task.

Movement is easy.

If you spin around in a circle, the baby will draw into you instead of the body wanting to pull away. 

 Babies are not born with six-pack abs for a reason. They look like little Buddhas. They have big bellies because their muscles don't create movement. 

The muscles are only there to support and respond to movement.

I can "strengthen" a muscle, but not be able to bend my arm.

To bend my arm I must have rotation, and that is what brings my hand to my mouth so I can eat something. 

So if you are doing exercises to "strengthen" your child's muscles, make sure you include rotational movements in their therapy routine.

How to Get Your Baby Into Weight Transfer Mode

Strengthening muscle and stretching will not put your baby into weight transfer mode.

To do this, you must offer the system rotation, weight transfer, balance, and counterbalance. 

(We didn't discuss balance and counterbalance in this blog, but know that these two things are important parts of functional movement.) 

*Regardless of Your Child's Muscle Tone, Movement Lesson™ Will Work for You. You Just Have to TRY IT! 

High or low muscle tone are signs that the body does not have rotation.

So when you teach the body rotation you are teaching the muscle tone to be more neutral.

Start putting your child's body into weight transfer mode by doing our High-tone or Low-tone optimal development jumpstart program.

(High-tone Optimal Development Jumpstart Program - Click Here)


No child should look stuck in their movements. 

When a child has low or high muscle tone, you see them getting "stuck" in their milestones. 

Share this blog with your friends. 

Join us on Facebook and search the group Movement Lesson for Parents and Practitioners. There you can get professional help as you begin your journey learning and applying Movement Lesson™ in your home. 

Remember to get started with these 6 lessons today! 

 Not taking action now keeps your child on a path of developmental deviations.

Don't do that.

Learn what you need to know and do to be intentional about your child's optimal development.

(Low-tone Optimal Development Jumpstart Program - Click Here)



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