Right? Left? 6 months too early to tell


April 14, 1992|By Dr. Modena Wilson and Dr. Alain Joffe

Q: At what age do babies develop a dominant side of their bodies? We've noticed our 6-month-old uses her left hand most of the time.

A: Most babies start out using their left and right hand about the same amount. They may use one hand and then the other. They may reach with whichever hand is closest. One moment they may seem right-handed but left-handed the next.

If their actions at 6 months give hints about which side will eventually be dominant, those hints are usually very subtle. Ordinarily, children slowly begin to show a hand preference between the ages of 1 and 3 but sometimes do not use the preferred hand consistently until they are even older.

If your baby clearly uses her left hand most of the time and has done so for some time -- that is, this left-handedness does not come and go --we suggest you ask your daughter's doctor about it. Persistent left-handedness at this age might mean that her right hand or arm is weak for some reason. Your doctor will be able to tell if this is the case.

We would be particularly concerned if both of you are right-handed. Two right-handed adults have only about a 2 percent chance of having a child who will turn out to be naturally


Dr. Wilson is director of general pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. Dr. Joffe is director of adolescent medicine.

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