This morning, Theo and I went to see Doctor Sue in the Physical Therapy department at Kaiser. We were referred there by the doctor who saw him two weeks ago in the preemie screening clinic (again, he was a full-term baby but had a low Apgar score of 5, 6, 8.)
I have come home with some good feelings and some new exercises for Theo. Doctor Sue did a number of little tasks with Theo and said that in general he is coming along very nicely. She even said that his Apgar score is not alarming—anything above a 5 for the second number means that the baby will probably develop normally. She said that he has a nice, round head, meaning that he is not lying his head more to one side than the other when sleeping. Sue got to see Theo sitting up very steadily and confidently, and how he can now lift his tummy a but off the ground while on his hands and knees. She also saw his left-hand preference and reiterated that we don’t want to see that until about two years of age. She explained that we want babies’ brains to share information freely between the two halves (I skipped mentioning that I knew about the function of the Corpus callosum.) The doctor took off Theo’s socks and watched him as he sat on my lap. He twirled his fingers, and his toes moved up and down as well as his feet. Sue said this is exactly what we want to see: the hands and feet should be active in a six-month-old. I asked her if she’d even seen a baby do the “hocus pocus” routine Theo does with his hands, and she said no.
What Doctor Sue did find concerning was Theo’s tendency to retract his shoulders and arch his back. Theo often props himself up on his elbows when laid back on the floor or in his swing, and this is a part of that. In the photo below, I just missed the moment where he is fully propped up. But you can see his elbows still pulled back and his head lifted up. Eventually, he can’t keep the posture up and he relaxes.
By the way, when Theo demonstrated this very behavior to Doctor Sue, she thought it was more funny than alarming. She hadn’t seen a baby do that before either.
However, Theo is less comfortable pulling his shoulders, arms and hands out in front of him. This can stunt his ability to crawl. This, she said, might not affect his development, but it also might. She has a 22-month-old she’s working on who never learned to crawl or walk because of the same issue. She said she’s seeing a lot of this shoulder retraction issue because of the “Back to Sleep” movement. She also noticed a couple of times that Theo tends to lean his right ear down toward his right shoulder.
Doctor Sue gave me a few exercises to do with Theo “with every diaper change,” meaning every 3 waking hours. She said that he should loosen up, and the problem wane fairly quickly. We go to see her again on January 26.