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Does my infant need occupational therapy (OT)?

Yes, even those of us under one have occupations! An occupation is any age-appropriate activity that you need or want to do. Play, sleep, feeding, and connecting with caregivers are the primary occupations as infants, but it can be difficult to determine how well a baby is doing these things in comparison to infants of a similar age. So, when is it appropriate to ask your pediatrician for a referral to occupational therapy?

If you notice….

Your baby seems to work hard at breathing: Your baby’s chest and belly should expand when they inhale. If they seem to come in, chest/abdomen move in opposite directions, or nostrils expand while breathing your baby may be expending too much effort with respiration, an indication of muscle weakness.

Your baby does not seem to look at you or toys: babies should look at their preferred caregivers, visually track the movement of people/toys, and reach for/activate cause and effect toys. Discuss with your pediatrician to determine whether an OT evaluation or in-depth vision assessment is most appropriate.

Your baby is frequently irritable, or resists being held: infants who startle easily, become upset with movement (such as lying on their back for diaper changes), or withdraw from touch/textures may have sensory sensitivities and would benefit from an evaluation to determine sensory processing abilities and strategies for soothing.

Your baby feels floppy or stiff: your baby may have abnormal (high/low) muscle tone. The following “red flags” warrant an evaluation for motor concerns:

  • Hands remain fisted later than 3 months or do not come to the midline at 4 months.

  • Head lag is present in pull to sit later than 5 months

  • Not yet independently sitting upright by 7 months

  • Not yet babbling by 10 months

Your baby does not hold or mouth toys: infants should be able to hold toys for several seconds by 5 months, transfer toys between hands around 7 months and purposefully release objects by 9 months. They should be bringing their hands/toys to their mouth by 4 months.

Your baby has difficulty with feeding: If your baby frequently turns away when milk is offered, pulls off the breast/bottle while eating, sputters, gags, loses liquids from the corner of their mouth, or arches back during feeding sessions, they may benefit from an occupational therapy evaluation to assess feeding and oral motor skills.

More questions? Contact our clinic to speak with an occupational therapist for a free consultation or to schedule an evaluation! 626-799-7955

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