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- Dr.Joni Redlich PT,DPT
http://jonikidpt.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/kidpt.png 0 0 jonikidpt http://jonikidpt.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/kidpt.png jonikidpt2023-01-14 12:21:342023-01-14 12:21:38Babies & Head Control: What to Look for & How to Help
How do babies develop head control?
Babies have just spent 9 months growing and developing in the womb, where they were just floating around!
As newborns, they are fully reliant on mom and dad to support where their bodies go and what they see, hear, touch and smell.
With practice, new experiences, and time, babies develop head control through a combination of increased muscle strength and coordination. As they grow, infants begin to control the movements of their head by strengthening the muscles in their neck, upper back, and throughout their bodies. They also learn to coordinate the movement of their head with their eyes, which allows them to fixate on objects and track movement. This stimulates the development of the vision system, which also develops as a result of movement experiences. Additionally, as babies spend time lying on their backs, lying on their stomachs, and even being carried, they have the opportunity to practice lifting and controlling their head movements.
When do babies hold their heads up by themselves?
Babies typically begin to hold their heads up by themselves around 3-4 months of age. This is a significant milestone in their development, as it indicates that they are gaining control over the muscles in their neck and upper back. However, it’s important to note that all babies develop at different rates, and some may start holding their heads up earlier or later than others. Some babies may be able to hold their heads up briefly as early as 2 months, while others may not be able to hold their heads up until they are 5 months old. It is important to also be mindful if a baby was born prematurely. We want to consider the skills of a baby who was born prematurely in comparison with their adjusted age and not just their chronological age.
It’s important to remember that skills will develop as babies have the opportunity to try out new skills. That means that babies need lots of time to experiment with movement! The best way to do that is on the floor on a blanket with both toys (consider black and white toys or cards for our youngest of babies) and also with us. Get down on the floor with baby to play and if there is a big brother or sister, have then get in on the action too. If you have barriers to getting down on the floor to play, you can do the same play activities on a couch where you can be sitting more comfortably.
Top 3 positions that are helpful for babies to strengthen their necks
Here are our Kid PT top 3 positions that can be helpful for babies to strengthen their necks:
- Tummy time: Lying on the stomach while supervised is one of the best ways for babies to strengthen the muscles in their neck and upper back. Think tummy down time though! Baby can be tummy down while being carried on your shoulder, on your lap, or on your chest. Tummy time does not have to be flat on the floor, especially during the first couple of months when maybe will have more success doing it on an inclined position.Tummy down positioning should start day one, but don’t stress about how it is done!
- Side-lying position: Lying on their side with their head supported can also help babies to strengthen their neck muscles, especially when they start to lift their head and shoulders. Lying on their sides will also stimulate rolling to either their backs and bellies. This gives babies the experience that they can move their bodies, which leads to them trying to make it happen again and again! When babies roll they are practicing controlling their necks in 3D positions to master head control in all planes.
- Playing on their backs: Although there is a lot of emphasis on tummy time, playing on their backs is also good for babies. This is not the same as playing in a bouncer, car seat, or other semi-reclined seat. Many of these semi-reclined seats limit head movement and block exploration. Playing on the floor on their backs like in the photo below is fantastic for the development of head control. You want to see the baby turning their head side to side, reaching for things, and moving their arms and legs in this position.
- Sitting on your lap: When babies are sitting on a loved ones lap, they are looking around at their environment or looking at their loved one cooing away. They are learning how to respond to movements to keep their head steady in one position as we rock and bounce during play.
- Carrying baby: Baby wearing or carrying your baby can also be helpful for the development of head control. When you are holding or wearing your baby and moving through space, the baby senses the movement and turns their muscles on in response. It’s a win-win for being close to you and getting stronger at the same time.
When should I get help if my baby isn’t holding their head up?
If your baby is struggling to hold their head up during tummy time or prefers to look in one direction, it is best to seek out professional advice. At Kid PT, Dr. Joni always tells parents that when they come in for a free screening they will either learn how to help their child or they will get piece of mind that everything is ok. There is nothing to lose!
To learn more about the developmental process in the first year and understand what to expect as your little one learns to move, check out Dr. Joni’s free guide, The 6 Keys to Gross Motor Development In the First Year. The goal of this guide is to help parents find out when their baby just needs more time and when their baby may need some help to meet their milestones!
If your worries about your baby’s development are keeping you up at night (and we know how precious sleep is right now!), then we would like to invite you to come in for a Discovery Visit to meet with one of Kid PT’s physical therapists. At a Discovery Visit, we will talk about your concerns and make a look at your baby’s movement skills.
You can request for a free visit HERE.
Do you want to learn more about pediatric physical therapy and what it is. You can read more about it here. I know as a parent it can scary to take your baby to a new medical appointment. Rest assured that our visits are generally filled with smiles, giggles, and play. Babies have no idea they’re “working”, but just know they’re having fun. In fact, one of our top values at Kid PT is for the therapeutic process to be not just effective from a movement perspective, but for it to be as easy and positive as can be along the journey.
If you have any questions, we are here for you. You can call us at (908) 543-4390 or email Dr. Joni directly at email@example.com.
Just remember parents, you go this!