Red Flags for Motor Development: Birth - 4 Months

A red flag is a term used in the medical field that indicates there could be a problem with your child's development. Let me emphasize the word could. It doesn't mean your child has or will have a problem; it just means they could. Typically, we grow concerned if your child has a combination of red flags, not just one. Your child's pediatrician will spot these flags and then send in referrals for the little one to be checked out. Referrals can be to a neurologist, geneticist, or other types of doctors. Physical, occupational, and speech-language pathologists will receive these referrals as well. If you think your child has any of these red flags, please reach out to your pediatrician!

Red Flags in a Newborn

  1. Only moves the right side or only moves the left side of their body
  2. Muscles feel extremely stiff or extremely floppy
  3. Hardly moves their arms or legs

Red Flags at 1 Month

  1. Doesn't have a consistent wake/sleep cycle
  2. Difficulty feeding, makes extra noise or dribbles milk, or is too sleepy to wake up for feeding times
  3. Audible clicking sound when you move their hips at diaper time

Red Flags at 2 Months

  1. Isn't able to follow a toy with their eyes and turn their head
  2. Holds their head to one side or the other
  3. Has a flat spot on the back or side of their head
  4. Arches their back frequently
  5. Prefers to be in a standing position most of the day

Red Flags at 3 & 4 Months

  1. Uses one arm more often than the other
  2. Keeps their head tilted to the right or left
  3. Has a flat spot on the back or side of their head
  4. Seems unnaturally strong
  5. Stiff or floppy, or fluctuates between the two
  6. Difficulty lifting their head while on their back or belly
  7. Keeps their hand(s) in a fist
  8. Difficulty moving their arms or legs
  9. Arches their back and head when laying on their back

If your child has any of these red flags, this means that there could be a problem, and their pediatrician would need to see them. Your pediatrician can send referrals to the correct medical professionals (including PT!) to make sure your precious new baby is on the right track.

-Cheyenne Allen, PT, DPT

B. (n.d.). Dev Red Flags. Retrieved 2020.

Baby Milestones: 0-3 Month Developmental Milestones. (n.d.). Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://pathways.org/growth-development/0-3-months/milestones/

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