This post is my most popular post and I decided to update it from the original post from 2013- Updated 2/2/2016. Please let me know if you have any questions!
This post is a follow up to my milestone post regarding development of head control. So here are my tips and tricks on working on head control, but make sure your child is at the appropriate stage of development when you work on increasing their head control and neck strength.
0-2 month olds should be able to turn their heads side to side while lying down.
Strategies for if your child isn’t looking both ways equally:
- Encourage them to rotate their head by slowly moving a light-up toy or brightly colored toy within their line of vision to each side to encourage them to turn their heads to follow it.
- Position them in their crib so that all interesting items/toys/people are on the side that they rotate to less. I encourage parents to change crib or baby positions to encourage rotating to the less favored side.
- Use sounds/music on the less favored side if there are no interesting objects to look at.
Neck strength- Neck extension with tummy time activities
It’s never to early to start tummy time! 🙂 From the post I linked to above, around 2-3 months, infants should be able to hold their heads up about 45 degrees intermittently and can also rotate their heads back and forth intermittently.
A great tummy time activity for newborns is also a great skin to skin activity- simply being on their parents chest on their tummy. You can alter the angle that they are on their tummy to make it easier or harder. This position also places your face close enough so they have something interesting to look at while they’re on their tummy.
You can also do this activity with your infant lying in this position on exercise ball. You can make the activity harder by rolling them so their body is more parallel with the floor, or you can make it easier by rolling them so they are more in an upright position. *** make sure to appropriately support their head if you are going to challenge their neck strength in an more upright position!
Neck strength- Neck Flexion with Pull to sit
As your baby’s neck strength improves, I recommend beginning practicing pulling to sit.
From my previous post linked above, by around 6 months, there should be no head lag with pull to sit, and a baby should be able to lift their head off the floor when they are lying on their back to help when you pull them up to sit.
Strategies to start improving neck flexion– which is when they lift their head up and bring their chin forward when they are on their back or in sitting:
- I wouldn’t recommend pulling up all the way initially, but begin by pulling up just enough to lift their shoulders a little off the bed to get your child used to the feeling of being pulled up, then gradually pull up higher as you see their neck strength improve. In other words, don’t pull all the way up if their head continues to lay back on the bed like the baby on the left.
- start practicing pull to sit from a more upright position as shown here:
- You can make pulling to sit a little easier by trying to pull up to sit with your baby sitting up at a slight angle. This will give them less gravity to fight against when trying to hold up their head.
- As your kiddo gets stronger, then you can start lowering the angle that you are pulling them up to sit from.
- *** make sure you are appropriately supporting their head during a pull to sit, in case they lose control of their head and their head drops back!
Head control and neck strength in all directions
The strategy I use most to work on head control and neck strength is the exercise ball.
You can use this with a child sitting or on their tummy, and shift them forward, backward, side to side working on having your child hold their head in the middle as well as possible.
- You are not only working on head strength in this position, but you are also working on trunk strength and will feel your kiddo use these muscles to try to keep their body upright.
In sitting you can slowly tilt them backwards so they try to tuck their chin and hold their head up, which will help them with holding their head up when you pull them up to sit. ***Again make sure to appropriately support their head when doing this exercise.
Tummy time to increase neck strength
Tummy time is the best way to increase overall neck strength and head control. Some other ways to work on tummy time aside from being on the floor:
- on ball as above
- over boppy pillow
- on inclined couch cushion
- on their parent’s knees or chest
Remember that any time your child is not lying on their back, they are working on increasing their head control and neck strength, so minimize lying down time when your child is around 2-3 months.
Categories: Tips and Tricks Tuesdays