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Floppy Baby Syndrome: Causes And Symptoms

Two of the important components of a human body are the bones and muscles. While the bones give structure to the body, it is mainly the muscles which are responsible for the movement. An average human's muscle fibres are firm and stiff. But, sometimes, a child may develop floppy muscles due to a condition known as hypotonia.

Hypotonia, commonly called the floppy baby syndrome is a condition where the muscles are severely under toned and are soft and squishy, instead of being firm. Read on to know more about this condition.

What Is Floppy Baby Syndrome?

A baby born with very low muscle tone is known to suffer from a condition known as hypotonia. This condition causes the muscles to be so soft that the baby suffering from the condition will almost feel like a floppy baby, thus the name.

Normally, our muscle tone indicates the ability of our muscles to contract and relax and also stretch or respond to stimuli. If the muscle tone is poor, all these functions are severely affected. A baby with low muscle tone does not respond to stimuli in the normal speed and cannot maintain a contraction for long.

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Babies with this condition have muscles which are very loose and stretchy, which may give them extended joints as well. Also, there are higher chances of dislocation of bones often due to bone joints being softer than usual. Babies affected with the condition have a hard time sucking or chewing for long as there is a huge delay with the contraction and relaxation of their muscles.

What Causes Floppy Baby Syndrome?

While babies are born with the floppy baby syndrome, children may develop the condition much later in life as well. Due to the condition directly affecting the muscle tone, the floppy baby syndrome is most commonly known to be a muscle or a nervous system disorder.

According to the National Institute Of Health, the floppy baby syndrome is caused due to the following reasons-

- Improper formation of the brain during pregnancy - If there are any major issues with the formation of the brain inside the womb during the early days of conception, it may result in floppy baby syndrome.

- Down syndrome - Babies born with Down syndrome often suffer from low muscle tone at birth.

- Spinal cord injury - As the spinal cord is where all the nerves arise from, any injury to it may cause the baby or the child to develop hypotonia.

- Cerebral palsy - This is a common condition which causes impaired muscle coordination, which results in low muscle tone.

Apart from these causes, some infections in the brain or the muscles are also known to cause hypotonia.

What Are The Symptoms Of The Floppy Baby Syndrome?

The floppy baby syndrome is diagnosed at birth or even after about 6 months. The most common way to diagnose the condition is by noticing the arms and legs. Normal babies have a good muscle tone which helps them easily move their limbs. But a baby born with hypotonia has very limp hands which fall on their sides and legs which are straight, rather than being slightly bent near the knees.

Babies born with the condition of the floppy baby syndrome have difficulty in breathing or feeding.

Usually, babies show these symptoms at birth and can easily be diagnosed. However, some babies may be born with normal muscle tone but show the signs of the condition at around six months of age.

At this time, if you notice your baby not being able to lift its neck to support itself while on its stomach or even if the baby does not reach the milestones, they may be diagnosed with hypotonia.

How Are The Symptoms Of Floppy Baby Syndrome Diagnosed?

Due to the fact that floppy baby syndrome can be a part of a much larger condition, it is important to correctly diagnose it.

Upon noticing the symptoms of the floppy baby syndrome, the doctors will do a physical examination to check for reflexes, balance, coordination or motor skills. This can further be carried over by carrying out an electromyography, which will help measure the coordination between the muscles and the nerves.

In certain cases, a spinal tap may also be performed to measure the pressure inside the spine.
Furthermore, a muscle biopsy will be done to conclude if the baby is indeed suffering from the floppy baby syndrome.

Doctors nowadays are advising genetic testing as well to understand if the condition is due to a mutated gene.

Can Floppy Baby Syndrome Be Cured?

Floppy baby syndrome is often caused due to an underlying condition which affects the nervous system of the baby. Therefore, in order to treat the condition, it is important to recognise the underlying condition as well.

If the floppy baby syndrome is the result of an infection or any muscle problem, the doctor may prescribe medications.

If the baby is suffering from a temporary hypotonia, there are many therapies available to increase the muscle tone and coordination. Options such as sensory stimulation programmes as well as occupational and physical therapy may help the child manage the condition and recover.

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However, if the condition is due to Down syndrome or cerebral palsy, though the above-mentioned therapies may help improve their quality of life to a certain extent, the child may suffer from the condition for a lifetime.

Story first published: Monday, October 22, 2018, 13:15 [IST]
Read more about: baby