Special to California Business Journal.
You already know that the early months of your infant’s life are some of the most precious, but also dangerous, times for challenges to their health or development. If your baby is not moving normally, such as feeling floppy or too rigid, they could be afflicted with floppy infant syndrome (FIS), and you should bring them to a doctor immediately.
What do I need to look out for?
Babies should be moving around more or less from day one. If they are limp or they don’t seem to be moving around as a baby normally would at that developmental stage, it could be a sign of cerebral palsy. Knowing the symptoms of cerebral palsy is crucial for new parents. Red flags to be aware of include:
–Not being able to keep their head up
–Head and limbs hanging loosely when picked up
–Frequent spasms or muscles seizing up
–Stiffness in the limbs
All of those observations are indicative of cerebral palsy, which is the result of damage to the brain during fetal development or birth.
Another thing to be watchful over in the first six months of your baby’s life is how they rest in place. Usually, babies lay in their crib with arms and legs bent, or flexed. Babies whose arms and legs lay straight may be suffering from muscle tone issues, which is indicative of problems in the brain. The same goes for observing sudden spastic movements, which could suggest your baby is having seizures, also an indicator of cerebral palsy.
Hearing loss is another big indicator of cerebral palsy that accompanies FIS. Hearing develops during the fetal stage, so your baby can hear you and should be responsive to your voice and other surrounding noises. If not, this would be an indicator that your infant has hearing impairment or loss, another big red flag that, with or without FIS, requires an immediate checkup.
What is FIS and what are the consequences?
FIS is also called hypotonia, which refers to low muscle tone. This translates into infants who are unable to raise their head or keep it up and experience difficulty with moving their arms and legs and wiggling around. The doctors are going to be testing for hypotonia in the first minute of your baby’s life, and they will follow up five minutes later. Some hypotonia is not obvious at first, and it can take up to six months to become apparent.
FIS can be caused by several different disorders that affect the central nervous system or, less commonly, neuromuscular disorders. Unfortunately, most floppy infant syndrome cases, when examined and followed up by doctors over the first year of an infant’s life, will result in either some form of mental retardation or cerebral palsy.
What should I do if my infant is exhibiting these symptoms?
You need to contact your doctor right away if your baby is showing signs of floppiness, stiffness, or seizures. These are very serious symptoms that are not common in a healthy baby.
If your baby is diagnosed with cerebral palsy, do not panic. While it is a debilitating condition, the actual symptoms of cerebral palsy do not get worse over time, although some symptoms might not be evident until later years of adolescence.
Part of the reason it is so important to get the diagnosis early is so that you and your family can start the process of making a long-term care plan. Raising a child with cerebral palsy will be a challenge that requires every member of your family to be educated on the condition, empathic to both your child and their parents, and supportive.
Having a good attitude, being open and accepting to uncertainties down the line, and staying positive are all keys to maximizing your child’s happiness and well being.
Long term care for a child with cerebral palsy will also include physical, occupational, and speech therapy in order to assist your child in dealing with the physical limitations of the condition.
Many children with CP are still able to engage in some regular activities like getting dressed and developing language skills, but they will need help. Therapists of these three specialties are really the key to their future success, along with the love and support of their family.