Seeing your baby reach their milestones is one of the most rewarding parts of parenting. Milestones are reassurance that your baby is developing properly for their age, and they are reinforcement for us as parents that our babies are developing properly. One of the most important milestones in infancy is head control. Once a baby can hold their head up without support, they are able to move on to more advanced movements like rolling over, sitting up, scooting and crawling. But when is that supposed to happen? 4 weeks or 4 months? If you are wondering, “When can babies hold their heads up?”, you are not alone.
When Do Babies Hold Their Heads Up?
According to Drs Blanco and Johnson, from the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics), babies should be able to hold their heads up fully without support around the 5 month mark. They’ve broken down the “typical” gross motor milestones by month as follows:
- 1 month: Can lift head up slightly in prone position (lying on tummy).
- 2 months: Head and chest up in prone position; head bobbles in upright position.
- 3 months: Rests on forearms in prone position with partial head lag.
- 4 months: Rests on hands in prone position; no head lag.
- 5 months: Lifts head when pulled to sitting position.
It’s important to keep in mind that all children develop at different rates. Maybe your friend’s baby is holding their head up without support at 2 months old, but your baby is not. This isn’t necessarily cause for worry. No two babies are the same. These milestones are merely averages. It’s impossible to pinpoint exactly when your baby will hold their head up. However, talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns. They are often the best source for reassurance. And if your baby does need some extra support in holding their head up without support, you can use Kinedu to get activities to help.
Tummy Time & Neck Muscles
The development of neck muscles is the most important component in determining when babies can hold their heads up. There are several ways you can support your baby in strengthening their neck muscles. The best way is through tummy time!
Tummy time is the most important tool in your arsenal for helping your baby gain the strength they need to hold their head up without support. Typically speaking, babies don’t love tummy time at first. It’s hard work! Think of it like strength training as an adult; you have to start slowly and work your way to being able to do more as you get stronger. The same goes for tummy time.
You can start tummy time right away when your baby is just a few weeks old, for just a few minutes at a time. Try laying them across your lap, or on a blanket on the floor for a few minutes, tummy down. Babies will naturally try to lift their heads. If your baby can only do tummy time for a few seconds at first, that’s okay! Little by little you will see their muscles start to strengthen, and by the end of the first month, their neck muscles will be strong enough for them to turn their head from side to side while laying down. It’s off to the races after that!
There is no shortage of products out there meant to support your baby with tummy time. There are playmats, baby gyms, special pillows and toys galore. These can be great to have on hand BUT, are not necessary to help your baby develop the muscles they need to be able to hold their heads up. The texture of a blanket or carpet, the differences in lighting, etc. are all the “toys” that they need during infancy to stimulate them to look around and hold their heads up.
Your baby’s favorite thing to look at is YOU! Lying down on your tummy on the floor face-to-face with your baby, or laying them on your tummy-to-tummy are the best ways to get your baby excited about tummy time. If you feel like your baby needs some extra support, you can place a small, rolled towel or blanket under their arms so they feel more comfortable and it’s easier for them to hold this position. Other great tools are mirrors and windows/sliding glass doors. If you can find a way to do tummy time in front of one of those, your baby will be intrigued at seeing their reflection or the world outside. You can download Kinedu for free to get more ideas on how to make the best out of tummy time, like the activity below:
- Important note on safety: Remember that your baby will still need your support in holding their head up for a while. Until your baby can fully hold their head up without support (5-6 months), tummy time should always be supervised.
Freedom to Move
Infants don’t need a lot of stimulation to be enticed to move around. Remember, this world is completely unknown to them, so everything is new and exciting. The best gift you can give your baby is the time, space and freedom to move their bodies freely when they are awake. Giving them time to learn about their body and how to move it is the easiest way to provide support in strengthening their little muscles. This, in turn, will help them to be able to hold their heads up without support.
How does Temperament Affect when a Baby Holds their Head up
Each and every one of us is born with an innate temperament. It is the collection of characteristics – emotional intensity, sensory reactivity, activity level, adaptability, persistence – that makes each of us unique. Understanding your child’s temperament is important for optimal growth and development, and will impact the speed at which they reach milestones like holding their heads up. For example, if your baby is naturally easy-going, they might get less frustrated during tummy time. A more intense child may quickly scream when placed on their tummy. Children are individuals and figuring out your child’s temperament over time will allow you to best support them in achieving milestones.
Now that we’ve answered your question about at what age babies hold their heads up with and without support, download Kinedu and get all the tools you need to support your baby reaching their milestones!