Motor development is the ability of an infant to use his/her body to perform various activities. In the early stages of motor development, movements are caused by congenital (primitive) reflexes, resulting in a spontaneous reaction to an irritant. Primitive reflexes are a way for infants to collect information from the surrounding world and to seek food and protect the infant (eg, startle reflex, sucking reflex, etc.). Assessing reflexes provides very comprehensive information about the level of the nervous system development of the infant. In time, infants learn to use their body parts in a controlled manner in order to perform gross and fine motor skills. The direction of motor development is usually from the centre to distal and from head to feet. For example, before developing hand control, the infant must gain good head and neck control. In order to be able to perform fine motor movements (grasping with their fingers), they should be able to manipulate their hands before. The use of upper and lower extremities requires good body control and stability.
When monitoring the development of an infant, it is very important to remember that each child is an individual. There are different milestones in the motor development that babies have to achieve in a certain order, but everyone does it at their own pace. The heavy motor skills require the use of larger muscle groups to teach the baby to turn, sit, crawl and walk during the first year of life. Grabbing smaller objects, later eating and dressing are all fine motor skills. Motor development supports the intellectual development of an infant.
You should definitely see a physiotherapist if you notice the following signs:
- A 3-month-old baby is unable to hold the head firmly in the prone position
- 6-8-month-old baby is unable to turn from supine position to prone and vice versa
- 8-10-month-old baby is unable to maintain sitting position
- 4 month and older baby keep his/her fingers in a fist constantly
- By 6 months, the baby is unable to bring objects to the mouth