Your newborn baby’s reflexes
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Rebecca Chicot PhD
Child development expert with a Phd from Cambridge University. She has worked on several best-selling books and BBC documentaries. She is the proud mother of three children.
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Physical development

Head control in babies, infants and newborns

Newborn babies can't hold up their heavy heads as they've been floating in the womb. They need to develop strength in their neck and back to control their heads and fight gravity. Until this happens, newborn babies need their heads gently supported when they are carried and lifted.
Video Tutorial
In Short
Between 4 - 8 weeks babies can do short bursts of being able to lift up their head.

Lots of tummy time on the floor and along your legs helps head control develop.

Premature babies will develop head control more slowly. Look to their due date for guidance on development, rather than their actual birth date.

How can I help my baby develop head control?

When your baby has started to try and raise her head and is spending more time awake and alert, tummy time will help strengthen her back and neck so she can start to hold up her head on her own. Let your baby spend time in different positions, not always on their back and avoid time in a car seat unless you are on a car journey.

Tummy time along your knees

If your baby hates being on the floor in tummy time, it might be easier for her to lie along your thighs with her little chin between your knees, lying on her tummy, so she’s looking out away from you. She’ll still get the back strengthening exercise but might enjoy it more because she’s closer to you and doesn’t get a face full of the carpet when she gets tired!

Tummy time chats

If you have her up on your knees, she can support her arms on your knees. Your partner or older child can have a little chat with her, which will encourage her, even more to keep her head held up whilst she babbles away in conversation. Having someone to talk to her whilst you hold her makes it easier to keep her attention and get her to lift her head up. It’s also very nice because you can stroke her back at the same time. She will find that tiring of course at first so keep these sessions short! But she’ll strengthen up quickly – you’ll notice she can spend longer each day with her head upright and alert. You can start this very gently and you’ll be able to tell quickly if she enjoys it or not. If she doesn’t, just stop and try again a week or so later.

Water play and baby yoga

When your baby has a bit of head control you will be able to join classes that can support her physical development.

Taking your baby to the swimming pool gives her a new experience where she can spend time on her tummy (with her face clear of the water) supported by you and the water and moving her body and limbs more freely than lying on a floor. Baby yoga also encourages a full range of movement, songs and positions that your baby will love and will promote her physical development and head control.

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.