When Do Babies Hold Their Head Up?
Part of the universal experience of being a parent is wondering when many of your baby’s first milestones will occur and what is typical in terms of their physical, emotional and intellectual development. It is only natural to be curious as to whether your baby falls into the pattern of what is considered standard for major development milestones.
One of those major milestones that make many parents eager with anticipation is when do babies hold their head up. This article takes some of the mystery out of what is involved in your baby first picking up their head and what the timing of that indicates for their development process.
The General Timeline
It takes a significant amount of time post-birth for your baby to achieve the milestone of lifting their head on their own and ultimately being able to move it around in the direction that they want without help. This guide will walk you through the timeline of the most significant head control benchmarks after birth and when you can generally expect your baby to develop the strength and coordination necessary to lift and move their head around on their own. Keep in mind that each baby is unique and progresses through the groundwork for muscle development at their own pace.
Immediately After Birth
Your baby will rely on you for cradling their head right after birth. This is a special bonding experience for the parent and baby because it signifies complete dependence on the parent for survival. Use this time to engage in eye contact with your baby and strengthen the bond between you two. Making sure that your baby’s head is fully supported at all times is critical for their safety.
From Birth to Up to Two Months Old
Other than the significant amount of time spent being held in your arms, your baby will be spending her time on her stomach or back at least until she is two months old. When your baby is one month or slightly younger, she may start to lift her head and move it slightly from side to side while laying on her back. Around two months, your baby may be able to control her head some while she is laying on her stomach.
Even if your baby does not meet these exact intervals, this is not necessarily a sign that anything is wrong developmentally. This is especially true if your child was born premature because developmental milestones happen to be slightly delayed for these children without any cause for real concern.
Up to Four Months Old
You may notice that your baby is significantly more active by the time he is about four months old. He is becoming more naturally curious and is spending more of his day alert to explore his new world. At this age, your baby will be trying to move his head around much more on his own and may even be able to turn it to each side by about 45 degrees. You will still need to provide some support when lifting your baby up because his muscles are likely not fully developed to completely support his head on his own.
Up to Six Months Old
Many babies spend a significant amount of awake time sitting up as opposed to laying down by the time they are six months old and have generally developed the strength required to hold up and move their heads. Your baby will be anxious to move his neck around and can mostly support it by himself while sitting and laying.
At this point, you may be able to carry your baby in a stroller or jogger because he has developed enough strength in his neck muscles to prevent his head from falling over too far when you are not cradling him. This is also generally the age when parents begin using a highchair for feeding because your baby’s muscles are strong enough to allow him to eat while fully seated on his own without fear of choking.
Assisting Your Baby with Holding Their Head Up
One of the reasons why many parents are excited for their baby to control their head without help is that it is the foundation for their baby being able to crawl and otherwise move around. Establishing solid head control is a vital phase in your baby’s development. Parents should be cautious, however, not to force their babies to try holding up their heads completely on their own too soon. It is dangerous to force this position on your baby without them approaching it naturally before the baby is at least three months old.
Encouraging Muscle Development and Stability for Your Baby
Along with wondering when babies hold their head up, many parents ask what exercises they can assist their babies with for developing major muscle control. One of the best ways to encourage babies to use their growing muscles is to allow them to experience frequent intervals of play time on their stomachs. Babies will want to look around and will naturally move to react to stimuli. It is never a good idea to leave your baby unattended on his stomach because they may not be ready for unsupervised play time in that position.
Getting Ready for the Next Milestones After Babies Hold Their Head Up
After babies hold their head up, the next fun milestone you should prepare for is your baby sitting up on his own. At this point, he will start exploring how to roll over and will initiate crawling.
One important reminder is that you should not attempt to leave your baby seated in a highchair to eat or play until he is fully able to support his own head and move it around for a significant amount of time. In addition, you should hold off on feeding your baby any solid foods until he has developed full head control. Trying to push this milestone too early for your baby can cause choking.
What to Do If Your Baby is Behind
The timeline of when babies hold their head up should not be taken as gospel by any means. As long as your baby is otherwise happy and healthy, it is not a serious cause for concern if your baby does not immediately start crooning around at two months old.
Some babies simply start this process sooner than others and are not necessarily any more intellectually, physically or emotionally advanced than other babies their age over their lifetimes. The important thing to keep in mind is that if your baby is eating and sleeping according to a regular schedule or expectations for their age as an infant, the rest of the major developmental milestones will likely follow in good order.
Consulting with Your Baby’s Pediatrician
If you are seriously concerned about your baby’s development timeline and want more information about when babies hold their head up, you can always raise the issue with a trusted pediatrician. They may want to examine your baby more closely if the three-month mark has passed and your baby does not show signs of working to lift his head on his own.
There could be perfectly acceptable explanations for this, such as your baby is just developing muscles at a slightly slower pace or has extra long limbs for its proportions and needs to grow into them for a bit longer. Your pediatrician may be able to help you explore options for developing sufficient muscle tone and control for your baby to be able to support and control their head on their own after the three-month mark.
After reading this guide, you hopefully now have a better sense of how varied different babies can be in the timing of when babies hold their head up for the first time and also are able to do so consistently. There is no magic rule for determining by when it is necessary for a baby to be able to control their head movements to keep up with a healthy development timeline.
It is understandable that parents are anxious to make sure that their babies are able to lift their heads on their own by a certain age, but there are many physical and developmental factors that influence the exact timing of when babies hold their heads up. You can always check with your pediatrician at your baby’s three-month checkup to make sure that she is on a healthy track if you are concerned that she has not yet lifted her head on her own.