Hypotonia in Babies – Signs, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

5 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.

Hypotonia in Babies

Hypotonia in babies, also known as floppy muscle syndrome, occurs usually at the time of childbirth or during infancy. This is a condition that occurs due to poor muscle tone in babies which keeps their body parts in a bent position. If your baby is suffering from hypotonia, you will get to know about the same during childbirth as your baby would not be able to keep their elbows and knees bent. There are many other diseases and disorders through which your baby develops hypotonia. It is also easily recognizable as it affects the brain’s health, motor nerves as well as muscle strength.

However, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of the disease or symptom leading to hypotonia in babies. Hypotonia is a medical word that is used for low muscle tone and your doctor will be able to identify if your baby has this condition. Here is what you must know about hypotonia in babies.

In This Article

What is Hypotonia in Babies?

Hypotonia is a medical word that is used for low muscle tone in babies. If your baby has hypotonia, they will tend to feel limp in your arms which will look quite similar to that of a rag doll. That is why this condition is also known as floppy infant syndrome.

Muscle tone is the amount of tension present in the muscles when at rest. When your baby cannot sit properly or keeps flopping down, this means that the muscle tone is low which leads to the conclusion that they may be suffering from hypotonia.

Muscle tone develops in the womb during pregnancy. But premature babies rarely have this syndrome as they are delivered early. If hypotonia exists in premature babies, it’ll be temporary and not permanent as they are delivered before time.

When your baby is diagnosed with hypotonia, it will tend to be a signal problem within the brain, nerves, muscles, and spinal cord. This can be healed with the help of physical therapy and other related treatments that help strengthen and improve your baby’s coordination.

What Does Hypotonia Look Like in Babies?

Hypotonia Look Like in Babies

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Here is how a baby with hypotonia will look like.

  • The baby will seem limp when you carry or lift them.
  • You will observe that they have more than normal flexibility at their joints.
  • They have poor posture and having a normal posture can be quite a difficult task for them.
  • Babies will have fatigue and low endurance levels due to the effort they have to put to maintain their posture.

Major Causes of Hypotonia in Babies

There are many reasons behind the cause of hypotonia in infants. Let’s discuss some more causes of hypotonia below:

  • Brain damage or problems in brain functioning
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Muscle damage
  • Infections
  • Lack of oxygen
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Achondroplasia
  • Damaged nerves

Signs and Symptoms of Hypotonia in Babies

Symptoms of Hypotonia in Babies

Most babies enter the world with bad muscle tone which is also termed hypotonia. In this condition, they will not have strong leg and arm movement. Their bones turn “floppy” shaped and hence they are not able to lift their heads when they are in their mom’s arms or breastfeeding.

Some other signs and symptoms of hypotonia in infants include:

  • Difficulty in feeding
  • Very flexible joints
  • Weak cry
  • Difficulty to handle the kid due to flopping or limping
  • Difficulty in lifting heads and poor head and neck control
  • Inability to place weight on their legs
  • Baby feels limp when held
  • Difficulty in swallowing or sucking

Diagnosis of Hypotonia in Babies

Diagnosis of hypotonia can be done soon after childbirth or before they have turned six months old. Pediatricians who do a complete health and wellness check on babies may be able to identify this condition at birth.

For older babies, parents who identify any of the symptoms must consult their doctor immediately.

Based on the symptoms the baby is displaying, the family history, and a complete physical examination, the doctor may diagnose the baby as having hypotonia.

Top 4 Treatment Options For Hypotonia in Babies

Treatment For Hypotonia

Once the doctor diagnoses your baby as having hypotonia, treatment will start soon after. The chief treatment comprises therapies of different types depending on your baby’s condition and what treatments they may require.

Some treatment options for hypotonia in babies include

1. Speech-Language Therapy

Speech-language therapy helps with problems with breathing, speaking, and swallowing.

2. Occupational Therapy

This therapy will help your baby slowly develop fine motor skills which are crucial for all the daily tasks.

3. Sensory Stimulation Programs

This therapy helps the babies to respond to sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch.

4. Physical Therapy

This therapy is similar to that of occupational therapy and helps your baby to get more control of their physical movements. This also helps in the improvement of muscle strength and tone over time.

Hypotonia in infants can happen either at birth or as they grow due to exposure to certain conditions. While the diagnosis may seem scary, treatment is possible. A combination of therapies and medications (if the doctor recommends) can help the baby achieve near normalcy as they grow. For parents, it is important to remember that treating conditions such as hypotonia can be a long-term process and patience is the key. Finding support groups or interacting with parents who have babies with the same condition can be of major help in their journey ahead.


1. Can Babies Grow Out of Hypotonia?

Hypotonia is a lifelong condition. But muscle tone can improve with time if the baby is given the right treatments and therapies. All of these must be started early and followed strictly under a doctor’s supervision.

2. Is Hypotonia in Babies a Disability?

Hypotonia in babies is not a disability but its underlying diagnosis can become a disability. However, hypotonia is not capable of affecting a person’s intellectual abilities.

3. Is Hypotonia in Babies Related to Autism?

We cannot say that hypotonia is closely related to autism but autistic children may suffer from hypotonia in some cases.

4. What Part of the Brain Causes Hypotonia in Babies?

The most common part of the brain, which is the cerebellum, is at a high risk cause of hypotonia. The cerebellum is mainly responsible for sending and receiving messages from the spinal cord.

Read Also: Congenital Muscular Dystrophy in Babies – Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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