Q&A: Baby Having Trouble Reaching for Objects at Midline

Tamara GuoChild Development

blockquote_bgMy daughter was born 38 weeks but spent 5 weeks in the NICU with an infection. She is now 4 months old. I am watching to ensure there aren’t any developmental delays. I have a question about her ability to reach objects presented at her midline. When playing on her mat with a toy at midline, she sometimes reaches for it with both hands but only is able to grab it with her right. She seems to have better coordination with her right hand when reaching for things.

The most important skill we look at for young babies by the time they reach about 3 months is the ability to bring hands together at midline. Shortly after this is when babies will start to attempt to reach toward, bat at and grasp toys with one hand. You should not be noticing a marked difference between left and right sides…since this sounds like it is a concern of yours I would recommend calling your local early intervention provider to request a physical and occupational therapy evaluation to rule out any concerns. If you notice that your daughter prefers to keep her head turned to one side more than the other when in various positions (belly, back, while in a swing/bouncer, etc) this could be one reason you see her preferring to reach & grasp with her right hand more than her left.

A PT and/or OT will be able to determine if there is a concern and in turn give you some great suggestions or positioning and play that you can use at home to encourage your daughter’s motor development. In the meantime, begin to present toys to her side which you may see as “weaker” instead of always at midline. Encourage lots of tummy time during waking hours. If you notice her preferring to keep her head turned toward the right side as well, then use rolled up receiving blankets to her right side to help her keep her head in midline and prevent her from turning it only to one side. This is our link on fine motor development for 4-8 months.