Head Control in Babies - Developmental Milestones

Baby Development Milestone – Head Control

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Gunjan Baweja (Paediatrician)
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Babies develop their skills gradually and in tandem with their physical development. Learning how to grasp things or crawl are developmental milestones that are essential for the baby in his process of learning body movement. Head control or the ability to hold his head up is also one of these milestones that can prepare your baby to sit, crawl and roll over in the future.

Video : Head Control : When Do Babies Hold Their Heads Up?

When Can a Baby Hold His Head Up Without Support?

You baby can lift his head up at about a month and hold it up when he is seated at around four months of age. When your baby turns six months old, his neck muscles would have developed well enough for him to hold his head up. He will also be able to turn his head from side to side at this point.

Why Is Head Control So Important in Infants?

Developing head control is a key step towards further development of movements and other milestones like sitting up, standing and even walking. Infant head control is also a sign that your baby is developing well. The ability to hold the head up can also aid in the development of vision in babies.

How Will Your Baby Establish Head Control?

Babies develop head control over a period of time very gradually as their muscles develop.

1. One to Two Months

At this age, your baby may be able to hold his head up when he is placed on his tummy. He may even be able to turn his head from side to side. Around the sixth to the eighth week, it may be possible for him to raise his head up when he is lying on his back. Although he can try to hold his head up while you hold him on your shoulder, it may still be a little shaky.

2. Three to Four Months

There will be a significant development in head control around this age. Your baby will be able to raise his head up to a 45-degree angle as he lies on his tummy and even holds it still for a while. You may want to begin engaging him in certain games or exercises to help him improve his head control further.

3. Five to Six Months

At the point, the neck muscles of your baby are well developed and he can hold his head up without much trouble. He may even tilt his head forward as you place him in a sitting position. He will also begin to have a steadier control of his head as he looks around.

What Will Your Baby Do Next After Holding His Head Up?

After your baby learns to hold his head up, you will notice that he will move on to support more complex movements like

  • Sitting up
  • Rolling over
  • Crawling

It is important that your baby has learned how to hold his head up before you start him on solid foods as you will be seating him on a high chair.

Helping Your Baby to Hold His Head Up

It is very likely that you will not have to be worried about head control in your baby as it develops naturally over time. However, since your baby has not developed neck muscles at birth until he develops head control, it is very important that you support his head and neck properly at all times when you are holding him up.

Mother supporting newborn's head and neck

While there isn’t a lot that you can do to expedite the process, you can engage him in a few games and exercises that will help him along the way. Here are a few baby head control exercises and activities that you can involve your baby in.

1. Give Him Plenty of Tummy Time

When your baby is awake, lay him on his tummy and place toys that he loves playing with in front of him. Tummy time can be crucial in the process of developing your baby’s mobility. It helps strengthen your baby’s arms, legs, torso, as well as his neck muscles. Ensure that your baby is safe and comfortable while he is on his tummy.

2. Work on Some Simple Sitting-up Exercises

Place your baby on a sofa or the bed once he is about three months old. Ensure that you provide proper head and neck support during the process. Never leave your baby unattended on the sofa or place him on the edge as he may topple over.

3. Allow Him to Observe

Make your baby sit on your lap and have him rest his back against you as he watches the world go by.

4. Engage Him in Little Games

Once your baby is around four or five months of age, you can also engage in little games. Place him on his back and pull him up gently with his arms as you make silly faces at him to make it more exciting.

5. Provide Praise Continuously

Ensure that you continue to encourage and support your baby every step of the way through verbally and through smiles.

What Is a Head Lag in Babies?

Although rare, head lag occurs in babies when their neck muscles are very weak and cannot support the head. This may happen due to various reasons like cerebral injury, preterm birth or low birth weight.

If your baby is over four months old and hasn’t been able to hold his head up, you can reach out to a paediatrician and have a check-up done to verify if your baby’s neck muscles are developing as they should.

Should You Be Worried If Your 3-Month-Old Baby Doesn’t Hold His Head Up?

Babies reach milestones at different times, hence your baby’s head control age may vary. Some develop skills more quickly compared to others. However, if you are concerned that your baby isn’t holding his head up at three months, you can reach out to a doctor to discuss the same. It is also important to note that premature babies may take longer to achieve these milestones.

Your baby’s development milestones can help him build his strength and mobility for his future body and are hence very important. It is important that you take the necessary steps to support your baby throughout this stage. More importantly, do not miss out on enjoying the little achievements of your little one as he is growing up.

Also Read:

Baby Crawling – A Developmental Milestone
Baby Shaking Head Side to Side – Is it Normal?

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