Lifting the head up within the first few months after delivery is a crucial development for babies as it paves the way for more complex movements like sitting-up and walking in the later days.
Post-delivery, your baby’s muscles are still weak and tender. He/she has little control over in the head region because his/her motor skills and neck muscles are fairly weak.
An average developmental timeline for your baby is given below:
- Newborns: Your baby needs your help and balance to support his/her head and neck during the first few days and initial part of the first month.
- One to two months: As the first month ends, your baby would be able to lift his head briefly and turn sideways while lying on his/her stomach. By the sixth or eighth week, his muscles will grow strong and be more coordinated, and he/she will be able to raise his/her head 45 degrees while lying on his/her back.
- Three to four months: Your baby will now be able to raise his/her head 45 degrees while on his/her tummy and keep it steady for longer durations. He/she may do so by leaning on his/her forearms. He/she should also be able to hold his/her head in line with the rest of his body as he/she is pulled up.
- Five to six months: By this time, your baby will be able to hold his/her head steady and erect. He/she will flex it forward when he/she is pulled into a sitting position.
Different babies have different rates of growth. Some may be able to hold their head up steadily by the third month, while some may take a much longer time.
As parents, these are some small tips that you can follow to help your baby achieve this milestone:
- Support your child’s neck and head by using hands or by folding your arm; completely avoid any kind of jarring and jerky movements in the initial months.
- Shake a rattle or use a flashlight on both the sides of your baby’s head. This will encourage him/her to turn his/her head to both the sides to identify the source of sound or light.
- Encourage tummy-time for your baby – put him/her on his/her tummy from time to time when he/she is awake so that he/she can lift his/her head and chest to look around.
- Try making your baby sit upright by using side support, back support neck support, and head support, in the form of cushions or pillows.
- Wait for your baby to develop control over his/her neck muscles before strapping him/her onto your body using a baby-vest or jogging stroller.
Remember that your baby’s progress should not be compared with other babies’. These are just general guidelines and your baby may or may not end up achieving these milestones by the exact specified time.
But, if you see that your baby is struggling in lifting his head (however slightly) even at around 3 months, or is not showing any signs or attempts in lifting his head at all, then consult a paediatrician immediately.