Learning to hold objects and crawl are developmental milestones that are critical for a baby’s development as he learns to move his body.
One of these milestones that can prepare your baby to sit, crawl, and rollover in the future is head control, or the capacity to hold his head up.
You probably won’t have to worry about your baby’s head control because it develops gradually over time. However, because your baby’s neck muscles do not grow until he gains head control, it is critical that you support his head and neck properly at all times while holding him up.
What can you read in this article?
- Activities that can help your child in holding his head up
- Other activities you can do with your child that will strengthen their head and neck muscles
- When should you be concerned about your infant not lifting his or her head?
Baby head control exercises: Activities that can help your child in holding his head up
While there isn’t much you can do to speed up the process, there are a few games and activities you can do with him to aid him towards development. Here are some exercises and activities that you may do with your baby to help him or her regulate his or her head.
1. Tummy Time
Tummy time, which involves lying your baby on his stomach on the floor or on your lap, is one approach to help him build his neck muscles. Only give your baby tummy time when he is awake; sleeping on his stomach raises the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
When your baby is awake, position him on his belly and in front of him set toys that he enjoys playing with. Tummy time is an important part of your baby’s mobility development.
It aids in the development of your baby’s arms, legs, chest, and neck muscles. While your baby is on his stomach, make sure he is safe and comfortable.
The American Occupational Therapy Association recommends starting with two to three minutes each day with your newborn and gradually increasing to 20 to 30 minutes per day. The study discovered that spending just six minutes more per day helped newborns develop head control more quickly.
Image from Shutterstock
2. Pull to Sit
Once your kid is three months old, put him on a sofa or bed. During the procedure, make sure you give adequate head and neck support. Never leave your infant alone on the sofa or near the edge, as he could fall over.
Pulling on your child’s hands to gently encourage him into a sitting position can help him strengthen her neck and back muscles. Evaluate your child’s abilities to deal with this.
Your child may not be ready to be brought into a sitting posture if his head does not come off the floor when you pull on her arms or if his head wobbles excessively.
Physical therapist Natalie Lopez recommends pulling just till his shoulders come off the ground, then progressively increasing the pull as he gains muscle control.
3. Reverse Pull to Sit
Sit your youngster facing you in a comfortable position. Grab their shoulders and begin to carefully lay them back. Pull your youngster back upright as soon as they start to lose head control.
If they need a little more of a challenge, try hanging onto their upper arms instead of their shoulders, then forearms, and eventually hands.
4. Reverse Cradling
When it comes to breastfeeding, most women use the ‘football-hold’ method. It’s one of the most relaxing ways to hold a child. A slight twist on this cradling approach, on the other hand, will help your baby’s neck growth.
When you lift him, make sure he’s lying down on his stomach. Your arms should support his torso, and your hands should support his chest and tummy. When you carry your baby, he will face downward, which will cause him to raise his neck to gaze about the house.
5. Game of Toys
Baby head control exercises. | Image from Pexels
Your infant would quickly become friends with his toys, which would keep him occupied for hours. You can take advantage of this by getting him to raise his head and spin around in different directions.
Allow your child to lie down on a blanket and use sound-making toys to attract his attention. Move the toy around slowly once he starts looking at it so he has time to turn his neck and follow the movement.
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6. Stretching the Neck
Some babies are born with weaker neck muscles than others, or with a head, that is abnormally large. Although this is not a deformity, it can be difficult for a baby to successfully turn around in these situations.
In this case, he might profit from some external pressure. You can gently lift your baby’s head and turn it to the other side if he sleeps with his head in one direction.
To help him touch his chin to his chest, a similar practice can be done. Allow your child’s eyes to guide you in the direction he wants to go, rather than forcing the movement.
7. Holding Upright
Holding your baby upright allows him to lift his head and look around, strengthening his neck muscles in the process. While your baby may first nestle into your shoulder, he will try to raise his head to look around and observe other people and objects sooner than you might anticipate.
Place one open hand on their upper chest and one open hand on their upper back, with your thumb on one shoulder and your fingers on the other, on your lap, facing sideways. Press in and down gently. This provides a solid foundation for your youngster to build upon.
To determine the spot where your child’s head is balanced, you may need to tilt or rock them slightly out of midline. Observe how long they can keep their heads up. It’s possible that you’re doing the majority of the work.
Once you’ve found your child’s balance point, test them by moving them forwards, backwards, left, and right in small ranges to see if they can keep their head up. If they lose it, they must return to the starting position.
To avoid tumbling backwards, support his back with your hand. Spending 12 minutes each day in an upright position also helps assist head control development, according to July 2012 Physical Therapy research.
8. Exercise Balls
An exercise ball — a large, squishy ball commonly used in therapy programs — might help you develop your baby’s neck and back muscles if you have the space.
When you move the ball forward, your baby must fight gravity to keep his head upright, which aids in the development of strong neck muscles. You can also gently roll your baby backwards in a sitting position so that he has to strive to keep his head up.
Other activities you can do with your child that will strengthen their head and neck muscles
Baby head control exercises. | Image from File photo
If you believe your baby needs some assistance to develop his head control, there are a few exercises you can do to help them continue to strengthen those muscles:
- Sit your infant upright on your lap or supported up in a breastfeeding pillow for some time. This enables your baby to practice holding up their own head while also providing back support.
- Even if they aren’t eating complete meals yet, put them in a high chair for short periods of time. This will also provide them with some support while urging them to maintain a level and straight head. Make sure they’re buckled up and that the seat is set at a 90-degree angle rather than reclined.
- When running errands or going for a stroll, consider wearing your baby in a carrier that allows you to place them in an upright posture. The world is a fascinating place, and if you allow them, most newborns will want to sit up and look about. To avoid the risk of injuring your child, make sure your baby carrier has the right size, style, and fit.
- Lay your baby on his back in an exercise mat with an arch or other hanging feature on their back. Your infant will reach up to grab what they see, developing the muscles in their neck, back, and shoulders in the process.
When should you be concerned about your infant not lifting his or her head?
An infant with poor head control or weak neck muscles should be checked by a pediatrician if they aren’t meeting the regular head control milestones, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.
If your infant isn’t able to keep his or her head up without assistance by the age of four months, it’s worth consulting with your pediatrician.
Not reaching the head control milestone might sometimes indicate a developmental or motor delay. It could be a sign of cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or another neuromuscular condition.
Most of the time, however, it’s just a temporary hiccup. Every baby develops at his or her own pace, and some babies learn specific skills sooner or slower than others. Whatever the cause, occupational therapy and other early intervention treatments can assist.
If you have any concerns about your child’s development, talk to your pediatrician at your next well visit. They can either calm your nerves or provide you with the information and tools you need to address your baby’s growth.