Fencing Baby: Is this typical?

By Jennifer Riesmeyer, DPT

“Is this typical?” I hear this quite a bit and plan to make it a regular post. So here is this week’s edition:

In this particular situation (2 month old baby), yes. Technically this is a reflex: asymmetrical tonic neck reflex or ATNR to your PT. You see the arm and the leg on the left side of the picture more flexed than the opposite side. The arm on the right side of the picture is extended out and baby is looking at her fist. This is a great introduction to hand eye coordination for the first few months of life. It is typical in newborns through about 6 months, when it develops into more complex patterns.

If your baby gets in this position but does not notice her hand, help her. Put a bright ring or rattle in the extended hand or massage her hand open. As with every motor skill, its important to observe it on both sides. Does it look different on one side than another? Does baby do it only on one side? Generally you are hoping for fairly symmetrical skills at this point.

If your baby is older than 6 months, is not rolling yet and you see this reflex quite a bit, its time to consult your pediatrician or early intervention program. Our physical therapists at The Clubhouse can help you problem solve whether this is impacting your baby’s motor development by becoming stuck in this position.

Unsure if your baby’s motor skills are on track?  Contact us to schedule a complimentary screening!


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