NEWBORN BABIES AND neck CONTROL
Newborn babies do not have head control, the ability to lift and move her head on her own. It is a motor skill that develops with plenty of tummy time. With the early gross motor skill of lifting the head, baby develops strong neck muscles. The action of lifting the head strengthens baby’s neck muscles so she can eventually hold her head up on her own. Until she can hold her head up all by herself, her neck muscles are weak and she needs support. When you hold her or move her from one place to another, please use your hands and forearms to provide extra stability for her. Young babies need support to prevent their heads from falling to the side and over stretching ligaments or muscles. For a more detailed explanation about why babies need neck support please read our post on baby head support.
WHEN CAN BABY HOLD HEAD UP?
Often babies learn to hold their heads up for long periods of time on their own by about 5 or 6 months of age. At this time you can hold them upright and baby can manage her own neck control. However, even at this stage it is a good idea to put a hand behind baby’s head and neck to support her as she goes down toward the floor. Often the action of putting baby down on the floor moves her through a backward motion which can be stressful on the neck. We recommend putting your hand on the back of baby’s head and allowing your wrist and forearm to cross in back of her neck and upper back. This puts her head, neck, and torso in one piece as you move it so no part can unsafely dangle. When she is on the floor, roll her a bit to one side and place your hand behind her head and then roll her back onto your arm before picking her up. Observe baby Zizu (5 months) in the above photo receiving some extra support as she is picked up from the floor.
PARENTING TIPS FOR NEWBORN BABIES
- Always support baby’s head when holding and moving her.
- Avoid playing the game of tipping her head backward (even if she seems to like it). It over stretches ligaments.
- Learn to roll her to the side to place your hands in the best place for her to feel your support. This includes behind her neck.
- When baby is able to hold her head up on her own in a few months, continue supporting her head as you put her down for naps or floor time.