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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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