When Will My Baby...?

Support Their Head Themselves

When your baby is first born they are unable to support the weight of their own head and you will have to make sure that you support it for them whenever you hold them or pick them up. Over time their neck will gain strength and they will gradually be able to lift their head up and control it more easily, although initially their head control might be a little jerky so you will still have to have a hand there to help them for a while.

So When Can a Baby Hold Its Head Up?

A baby is usually able to hold their own head up at around three to four months old. Some babies may be able to lift their head, or try to, for a short time when they are younger. Others, on rare occasions, may try to lift their head when they are a few weeks old. If they are trying to do this it is really important that you still support their head as the muscles and bones in their neck are still very fragile.

By the time they are eight weeks old they will probably be able to turn their head to look at you or a favourite toy, whilst lying on their back. They may also lift their head briefly when you are carrying them against your shoulder. This is excellent practice for them for building up their muscles and coordination.

Your baby's size may have effect when they try to lift their head. A small baby, especially one who is premature, may take a little longer to develop the muscle strength needed to lift the head.

For your baby to lift their head it takes more than just muscle strength. Throughout their first few years of life your baby's brain is growing rapidly. Brain cells are constantly being created that will form the areas of their brain responsible for motor skills, learning and memory among many other things. Neural pathways are developed that will allow your baby to move particular sets of muscles. As this continues to develop, your baby will become more coordinated and have more control over their head movements.

Even when your child does lift their head, they may still be quite wobbly until they are six months old. By the age of six months they should have the muscle strength to hold their head up easily and keep it steady.

How Can I Help?

There are lots of ways that you can help your baby to develop their motor skills. Laying them down on a rug with an activity gym will encourage kicking. Leaving toys next to them will encourage them to turn their head to look and perhaps reach out to grasp an interesting item.

Tummy time is important for babies. Being laid on their tummy for a short time to play each day will encourage them to lift their head and push up with their arms. This also builds up hand and arm strength for crawling.

Even when you are busy with household chores you can still engage with your baby. Place them in a baby bouncer and talk or sing to them as you work. As you move around the room they will turn their head to follow you to see what you are doing.

All babies develop at very different rates and if your baby hasn't reached the same milestones as other people's babies the chances are there is nothing to worry about. However, if you are concerned that your child is very late in reaching one or a number of milestones then it is sensible to seek further professional advice from either your health visitor or GP. We have more information on the variable rates of development in babies here.

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This internet site provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your own health or the health of your child, you should always consult a doctor or other healthcare professional.