Milestone Mondays- Development of Head Control

Announcement before you read my most popular post about development of head control!Beyond Basic Play

I am excited to announce that I have fully revamped my blog to turn it into a Special Needs Online Community!  Beyond Basic Play is now an online community with forums that are focused on families with children with special needs as well as pediatric therapists!

I have been wanting to turn my blog into an online community for some time now because of all the great questions that parents and therapists have been asking me on my blog site.

Though the Forums will now be the focus of my site, my blog will still be active as well.

You must be registered with Beyond Basic Play to view all of our forums and it is free to sign up and participate!

The forums are focused on:

  • General parenting topics
  • Diagnosis specific forums
  • Focused parenting forums regarding various ages and stages
  • Special forums for parents to ask questions to pediatric therapists
  • Forums specifically for pediatric therapists to share and learn from pediatric cases

Thank you for supporting Beyond Basic Play and check out our new site here!


I’ve decided to do a series of posts on specific developmental milestones in newborns and infants.  So the first will be about development of head control, which is one of the basics you need before progressing to the remaining milestones.

Come back next week to see my tips and tricks on helping to improve head control!

head control

So why is developing appropriate head control important?

  • assists with proper vision development
  • assists with proper vestibular development- which is how are body maintains its balance
  • helps prevent developing a flat head- also called brachycephaly and plagiocephaly
  • helps develop age appropriate hand use by being able to look to both sides


Example of ATNR

0-1 month

lying on back:

  • most newborns rest with their heads turned to one side rather than lying flat on their back
  • rooting reflex is present- where you touch a baby’s cheek and they will turn to the side where their cheek was touched- this reflex assists with breast feeding.
  • A newborn should be able to rotate their head from side to the other
  • ATNR (Asymmetrical tonic neck reflex)- this is where when a baby turns their head, the arm that they turn their head towards will straighten- this is thought to help a baby see their hand better during these early months.  This reflex usually disappears by 3 months of age.
  • full head lag when you try to pull a baby from a lying down to a sitting up position

lying on stomach:

  • unable to lift head up
  • may be able to turn head on their tummy but unlikely


  • unable to hold head up at all in sitting, and chin usually rests on chest

2-3 months

lying on back:

  • child mostly lies with head looking up
  • able to hold head slightly with pull to sit; head lags about  25-50% of the time

lying on stomach:

  • able to hold head up about 45 degrees intermittently
  • can turn head back and forth


  • able to hold head up slightly, but head bobs in place with bouncing movements
  • unable to hold head steady at this time

4-6 months

lying on back:

  • no head lag when pulling up to sit
  • around 6 months able to lift head up off the floor and assist when you pull them up to sit

lying on stomach:

  • able to hold head up well at 90 degrees

baby able to hold head up when tilted


  • able to hold head up well with no bobbing
  • around 6 months- able to keep head aligned in the middle when you tilt them from side to side or forward and backwards

By 6-7 months, a child should have fairly good head control.  If you feel your child still has a hard time holding their head up consistently and is not turning their head well in all positions, consider talking to your pediatrician to if any follow-up exams should be performed.

Categories: Milestone Mondays

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10 replies

  1. My son is developing a flat spot on his left side from favoring that position. When I reposition his head he wakes up and can’t get back to sleep. Is there any pillows your recommend that could help, he doesn’t seem to mind the stretches for torticollis so any tips would be great!


    • Hi Fran, thank you for stopping by my blog! I’m glad to hear that your son doesn’t mind the torticollis stretches! They don’t really recommend using any pillows because he can still wiggle his body off the pillow and you also don’t want to have any obstructions in the crib. there are 2 options you can try, and 1 you may have already. is to position him in his crib or position the crib so that more interesting objects are on the less favored side- whether your play music on that side, the door to the room is on that side, or toys/lights are outside the crib on that side, so that way he has a little more motivation to look to the less favored side. Another option is to place a small towel roll under his crib mat so that his crib is at a very small slight angle, and place him so that looking to his less favored side would be on the lower side of the crib so that it is more difficult for him to look up at his favored side. This option is a little safer than placing a towel roll directly under your son so then there are no obstructions in the crib. And again, just a small towel so it’s a slight angle, and not one where your son will actually slide sideways on the crib. hope these are helpful, please let me know if you have any other questions!


  2. Hello I have a 4.5 month old with no head lag but his head wobbles in sitting position. He can sits with support but at times leans forward and so is not proficient at the moment. He has good head control at tummy time and can raise his chest and head raised at 90 degrees. Can you suggest some exercises for wobbly noddy head?

    Also he is only rolling in one direction towards left – from his back to tummy. He has only occasionally rolled from Tummy to back. Is this considered abnormal development that he isn’t rolling from tummy yet and also uni directional? How do I encourage him to roll both ways?



  3. My 6 month old (will be 7 months on the 31st) lags her head when pulled from a lying down position to a sitting position with her arms. She reached all her milestones except what I’ve mentioned. She has very strong neck muscles when on her belly (raises head without a problem, looks around, forces herself to sit up in reclined chair, is able to keep head aligned with shoulders when pulled into sitting position while in reclined chair, etc). I am nervous because I watched a video on youtube where it states that head lag can be a sign of autism at 6 months. Thank you!


  4. Hi, my baby is 4 and a half months and has head lag when being pulled from lying to sitting. His head is right back and looks like it is going to fall off. He does manage to hold his head up when he is sitting up. The doctor has been monitoring it and as there is no improvement he has referred him to the paediatrician, but there is a 12 week waiting list. Should I be concerned?
    He has started rolling from back to front


    • Hi Natascha, sorry for the delayed reply. How is your son’s head control doing now? If he can hold his head up in sitting then that is great, and challenging his head control in sitting will help him improve his head lag. You can challenge him by tilting him in different directions when he is sitting so he learns to keep his head centered.



  1. Tips and Tricks- Increasing neck strength and head control « Beyond Basic Play
  2. Tips and Tricks- Increasing neck strength and head control | Beyond Basic Play
  3. Ways to Increase Head & Neck Control –

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