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Whenever you try to hold a baby in your arms, you can hear your mother’s instructions to support his neck with one arm. This is because a baby’s neck muscles are too weak when they are born. Babies are not born with strong muscles and it is something which develops with time. The neck muscles in a baby’s body may take some time to develop, which is why it is necessary to support your child’s head when you cradle him. However, certain exercises can strengthen your baby’s neck muscles. So, make sure your baby practises these neck strengthening exercises. However, be careful, he should not hurt himself in the process.
Stages of Neck Development in Babies
All babies reach development milestones in their own time. Some children may get there sooner, while others might take a couple of weeks longer. Nevertheless, there is a general consensus around how strong a baby’s neck should be at a certain age in his life.
|Age Range||Baby Behaviour|
|A newborn baby||The muscles in the neck are at their weakest at this stage. It is necessary to support the child’s neck when you lift him up.|
|After a month||There might be few attempts to lift the head or turn it in different directions when lying on his stomach.|
|Close to completing two months||Your baby may start raising his head when he lies down. Also, when sitting up with support, he may hold his head up in a wobbly manner.|
|On nearly completing four months||He will be able to hold his head well while lying on his stomach and raise it up to a good degree.|
|Reaching the six-month mark||Most babies tend to start holding their heads upright around this time. Also, their heads should ideally follow their body when they sit up straight.|
Exercises to Strengthen an Infant’s Neck Muscles
To assist your child in his attempts to hold up his head and to strengthen his neck muscles, there are a few exercises your baby can partake in with your guidance that can help him in this regard.
1. Reverse Cradling Your Child
Most women opt for ‘football-hold’ when they breastfeed their baby. It is one of the most comfortable ways to hold a baby. However, a slight twist to this cradling style can work for your baby’s neck development. Hold him in such a way that he is on his stomach when you lift him. Support his body with your arms, your hands should support his chest and belly. Your baby will face downward, and this will make him raise his neck to look around the house when you carry him.
2. Game of Toys
Your baby would soon befriend his toys and those toys would keep him engaged for hours. You can use this to your advantage and get him to raise his head up and turn around to other directions. Let your child lie down on a blanket and make use of toys that make sounds to get his attention. Once he starts looking at it, move the toy around slowly so that he has time to turn his neck and follow the movement.
3. Stretching the Neck
Some babies can either be born with weaker neck muscles than usual or even an unusually large head. Although this is not an abnormality, it can be difficult for a baby to turn around successfully in such cases. Using some external push can benefit him in this regard. If your baby tends to sleep with his head in one direction, you can gently lift his head and turn it to the other one. A similar exercise can also be conducted to help touch his chin to his chest. Don’t force the movement, and let your child’s eyes guide you in the direction he wants to turn.
4. Tummy Time
This is the classic way of developing the upper body strength and the neck muscles of a growing baby. Most doctors and nurses will suggest that you do this regularly. Similar to using toys to attract his attention, you can lay your baby down on his stomach on a blanket and call out to him lovingly. Ensure you stay within his line of sight and gently guide him in raising his head up. He will try to raise his head and look at you, which will develop his muscle strength.
These neck exercises are important for the development of his neck muscles. The sooner a child can learn to sit up straight and hold himself steady, the easier it will be for him to reach the other milestones of development and start observing the world around in a better way.
Also Read: How To Hold a Newborn Baby