Soon after your baby is born you’ll realize how delicate and fragile your little one is. You’ll need to handle your baby with the utmost care because your baby is not fully developed even after birth. Initially, your baby’s sleep-wake schedules, diapering, and feeding routines will take time to kick in. Once this settles, you’ll be able to focus on other developmental milestones. Each baby reaches these developmental milestones at their own pace. One such milestone that you’ll look forward to is the baby’s head control. Your baby’s motor skills need to improve to help him/her achieve head control. Let’s give you a low-down of when your baby reaches these milestones.
As a newborn, your baby’s neck muscles are yet to develop. Due to this your baby’s head will be quite wobbly. You’ll need to support your baby’s neck with your palms each time you carry him/her in your arms or place in your laps (1).
By the time your baby completes the first month, the shoulder and neck muscles would have become stronger compared to at the time of birth. Your baby will have better control over the head movements and will be less wobbly. During this stage, if you put your baby on the belly, he/she might be able to lift the chin up for a few minutes. However, this does not mean that you can now hold the baby without supporting the head. You’ll still need to carry your baby around by supporting the head and neck muscles. Even while transitioning from a lying to sitting position, your baby’s head will still need support (2).
When your baby completes the second month, you’ll notice a remarked improvement in your baby’s head control. Now when you put your baby on the tummy, you’ll notice that he/she will be able to lift the shoulders and head up to a few inches. Your baby might even use his/her arms as a support to prop themselves up. If you put your baby on your shoulders to carry around, your baby will try to hold the head up every few minutes. In a sitting position too, your baby will be able to hold the head up for a short time(3).
The baby’s shoulder and neck muscles continue to strengthen by the time the third month ends. When placed on the belly, the baby will be able to hold the head up above the body easily. This is why by the end of the third month, the baby’s head control milestone is no more measured by placing them on the tummy.
When sitting, your baby’s head might lag a bit, but overall your baby will be able to hold the head upright for a longer time (4).
As with the previous months, during the fourth month as well, your baby’s head, neck, and shoulder muscles continue to strengthen. By this time, your baby will be able to hold the head up excellently for a long time while being in a sitting position. But try swaying them and you’ll notice that your baby’s head might wobble a bit. This means that your baby’s neck muscles haven’t developed completely (5).
By the end of this month, your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles would have developed completely. This would now give your baby excellent head control. Even in the sitting position, there will hardly be any head lag. Try swaying them and you’ll notice no wobbling (6). But do not fret if your baby doesn’t show this improvement. If not this month, your baby might reach the milestone in the next month.
If your baby hasn’t reached the head control developmental milestone by month five, then in all likelihood he/she will reach it this month.
Most babies reach their head control milestones within six months. Remember that each baby is different and they’ll reach such milestones at their own unique pace. In case you don’t see that coming, do visit your pediatrician for a check-up.