When a child starts holding his head and how to help him do it earlier

When a child starts holding his head and how to help him do it earlier

Every parent wants their newborn to develop correctly and harmoniously, and one important milestone is when the child begins to hold their head. In this article, we will delve into this topic, discussing what is considered normal, how adults can support the baby, and how to help them acquire this skill faster.

How Does a Baby Learn to Hold Their Head?

Each child develops at their own pace, including when it comes to holding their head. As the back muscles strengthen, the ability to retain head control improves. While there are general time frames and norms for baby development, they can vary. On average, babies start attempting to lift their heads while lying on their stomachs at around 2-3 weeks of age, although it lasts only a few seconds initially.

Fully lifting their head while on their tummy usually begins between 1.5-2 months, though some babies may achieve it closer to 3 months. At this stage, babies can also start holding their heads upright when supported by an adult, but they may still feel somewhat unsteady.

Around 4 months, it is normal for babies to be able to hold their heads up confidently while on their abdomen, as well as vertically. Their neck muscles become stronger, allowing them to turn their heads to the sides. However, adult supervision is still necessary.

When Does a Baby Start Holding Their Head Independently?

While lying on their stomach, babies progress as follows:

  • At 1 month: They begin to raise and hold their heads for 2 to 8 seconds.
  • At 2 months: They can raise and hold their heads for up to 30 seconds.
  • At 3 months: They can raise their heads high, hold them for 1-2 minutes, and may lean on their forearms.

Starting from around 2 months, babies can hold their heads upright when supported by an adult. Initially, they may only manage it for a short time, about 1-2 seconds, gradually improving their stability. It is important to note that the norms can vary for each child, but if a baby shows no attempts to lift their head by 3 months, it may be a cause for concern.

How to Assess if Everything is Fine

By 3 months, the baby’s cervical vertebrae and muscles should have significantly strengthened, allowing them to hold their head with more confidence. You can perform a simple test to ensure everything is on track:

  1. From a lying position, gently pull the baby up by their hands, as if helping them sit up slightly.
  2. Their head should maintain a straight line with their neck for at least 3-4 seconds.
  3. Small swaying movements are acceptable, as the neck muscles are adjusting to this new position.

This simple exercise can be incorporated into your baby’s routine along with other developmental exercises to help them master this skill. Positive progress should become noticeable within a few days.

Remember, each child is unique, and their developmental milestones may occur at different times. If you have concerns about your baby’s head control or overall development, it is always best to consult with a pediatrician or healthcare professional for personalized guidance and reassurance.

Why Does a Baby Have Poor Head Control?

There are several reasons why a baby may have difficulties holding their head up. One common reason is weak neck muscles due to insufficient tummy time. It is during this position that the muscles necessary for proper head control are engaged and strengthened.

Ask yourself honestly how much time your baby spends on their tummy. By 3-4 months, they should be spending at least 30-40 minutes per day in this position, divided into multiple short sessions of 5-10 minutes each.

If you consistently provide tummy time but your baby still struggles to hold their head well, it may indicate reduced muscle tone in the neck or birth trauma. It is important to encourage motor activity and seek advice from a healthcare professional.

How to Teach a Baby to Hold Their Head

The primary exercise to help a baby learn to hold their head is to place them on their stomach before each feeding and gradually increase the time. If the baby becomes upset while lying on their stomach, do not force them to stay in that position for too long, but still allow for shorter periods of tummy time. It is not recommended to put the baby on their stomach before bedtime, as it may lead to overexcitation.

Observe your child closely to ensure their head does not consistently tilt in one direction, which could lead to a habitual head inclination. If the baby starts throwing their head back, you can pick them up and hold them in the fetal position to release tension from the muscles.

The following activities are effective for promoting head control:

  1. Tummy time before and 25-40 minutes after meals. It is helpful to place a small pillow or rolled-up towel under the baby’s chest and engage them with toys or playful interactions to prevent boredom. If the baby becomes too fussy, pause the activity and try again in a couple of hours.
  2. Carrying the baby in your arms, supporting them under the buttocks and chest. Singing songs, telling stories, or showing them colorful objects can also stimulate their curiosity and encourage them to look around.
  3. Swimming. It is advisable to consult a specialist or a baby swimming center. Water activities can help strengthen the neck muscles.

If a child reaches the age of 3 without showing signs of head control, and medical professionals have ruled out any underlying pathologies, incorporating a gentle exercise or massage routine can be beneficial.

Proper Holding Positions for a Newborn

From birth to 4-6 months, the following positions are optimal:

  1. “Cradle Hold”: Place the baby’s head in the crook of your elbow while supporting their back on your arm. Use your other hand to provide support under their buttocks and lower back. This position is commonly used during feeding.
  2. “Facing Away”: Turn the baby away from you, supporting their chest against your body with one hand, ensuring their head and back are supported. Hold their legs with your other hand. This position relieves pressure on the spine.
  3. “On the Forearm”: Position the baby’s head and stomach on your forearm, allowing their arms and legs to dangle. Support their body with one hand. This position helps the baby strengthen their neck muscles and practice lifting their head. It also aids in relieving gas.
  4. “On an Adult’s Knees”: Sit comfortably and place the baby on your knees facing upward. Support their head with one hand. This position is ideal for enjoyable interaction and bonding with your baby.
  5. “Eye-to-Eye”: Rest the back of the baby’s head on your palm while supporting their back with your free hand. You can lift the baby to a comfortable height for communication and to share positive emotions.

How to Properly Handle a Child

Regardless of your baby’s age, it is important to avoid the following actions:

  1. Avoid lifting the baby from the floor or crib without supporting their head. Always provide support to the head and back when picking them up.
  2. Refrain from keeping the baby in one position for extended periods. Babies are unable to communicate their discomfort or adjust their position independently. Even if you are holding them in a cradled position, remember to change arms and sides periodically.
  3. Do not excessively shake the baby. Vigorous shaking does not calm them but can actually frighten them. Due to the underdeveloped neck muscles in the first year of life, even minor shaking can be dangerous.
  4. Avoid performing risky movements while holding the baby. Refrain from using sharp tools or carrying heavy weights.

It is important to remember that every child develops at their own pace. While the average timeframe for a baby to hold their head up is around 3 months, this can vary. If you have any concerns, it is always advisable to consult a healthcare professional.