Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy in an Infant

Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy in an Infant
Symptoms of Cerebral Palsy in an Infant (Image: Photo: (vierdrie))

Cerebral palsy is the umbrella term for a group of disorders related to brain development. They can affect a person's ability to move, speak, see, hear, think and learn. According to the National Institutes of Health, symptoms of this disorder can show up in infants as young as three months old. Being alert for the telltale symptoms in infants can lead to early diagnosis, which allows treatment to begin as soon as possible. This can help an affected baby develop to her fullest possible potential.

Delayed Milestones

Infants who have cerebral palsy may be delayed in reaching typical milestones as compared to other babies. For example, the Alfred duPont Hospital for Children says that infants should start reaching for toys between three and four months of age. They should be able to sit up by the time they are 6 or 7 months old. If an infant is unable to do these things, it may be a sign of cerebral palsy.

Abnormal Movement

Infants with cerebral palsy may make abnormal movements because this disorder can prevent them from controlling their muscles. This can be hard to distinguish when an infant is very young. However, as he develops, he should start gaining control of his movements. If he seems to be making involuntary movements or having tremors, the Alfred duPont Hospital for Children says it could mean he has cerebral palsy. The disorder may also keep him from making controlled movements when he tries, and the National Institutes of Health note that paralysis could occur as well.

Abnormal Reflexes

Infants with cerebral palsy may continue to have infantile reflex responses even after they should have outgrown them. Their reflexes may also be abnormal when compared to those of other infants. This can usually be discovered in a physical examination. If the baby is not responding normally, it could be an indicator of cerebral palsy.

Muscle Tone

The National Institutes of Health says that poor muscle tone in an infant can be a sign of cerebral palsy. The disorder often causes "floppy" muscles, particularly when the baby is at rest. This may be accompanied by an abnormally wide range of motion in the joints.

Feeding Problems

Infants with cerebral palsy may have problems feeding. The National Institutes of Health says this is because the condition can impair a baby's ability to suckle. Excessive drooling and difficulty swallowing can also be a symptom of cerebral palsy.


There are many conditions with symptoms similar to those of cerebral palsy that can lead to an incorrect diagnosis. According the the Alfred duPont Hospital for Children, these include spinal cord disorders and brain tumors. Infants may also show cerebral palsy symptoms as a result of head injuries, seizures, or accidental drug overdoses. When a baby is very young, it can be a challenge to rule out other causes and pinpoint cerebral palsy as the culprit.

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