Child & Family Development Child & Family Development

March 26, 2013

Sure-Fire Ways to Improve Your Baby’s Head Control

Child and Family Development head controlIs your baby 2 months, 3 months, or 4 months old and still not lifting their head? By one-month-old, you should notice your baby turning his/her head from side to side when lying on their stomach. By 4 months, your baby should be able to hold their head up while in a sitting position. Developing strong head control is a gradual process which takes place over the first 6 months of your baby’s life. There are several ways that you as a parent can help your baby strengthen the muscles needed to develop strong head control.

How to help

  • Often, I find that children with poor head control keep their shoulders elevated. This is normal development, but muscles must be elongated before they can work properly. If you notice your baby holding their shoulders up high causing wrinkles on their neck:
    •  Press down on their shoulders with a gentle but persistent pressure.
    • It is easier to do this in a sitting position.
    • Sit them in your lap with their back to you and press down on both shoulders simultaneously.
  • Help your child learn what it feels like to hold up their head.
    • Sit them in your lap, facing sideways, place one open hand on their upper chest and one open hand at their upper back with your thumb at one shoulder and your fingers at the other shoulder.
    • Gently press in and down. This gives your child stability to work off of.
    • You may need to tilt or rock your child slightly out of midline to find the place where their head is balanced.
    • See how long they can hold up their head. You may be doing most of the work.
    • Once you find their equilibrium point, you may be able to challenge your child by moving them forwards, backwards, left, and right in small ranges to see if they can keep their head up. Return to the start position if they lose it.
  • Try reverse pull to sits!
    • Place your child in a sitting position facing towards you.
    • Hold onto their shoulders and slowly start to lay them back.
    • As soon as your child starts to lose head control, pull them back upright.
    • If they need more of a challenge, try holding onto their upper arms instead of their shoulders, progressing to their forearms, and finally their hands.
  • When lying on their stomach on the floor, it is very difficult for your child to lift up their head since they are working against gravity. To help with this problem:
    • Sit on the floor with your back to the couch and your feet in front of you. Scoot your behind out from the couch about 9 inches and bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor.
    • Place your child on their stomach on top of your thighs facing away from you.
    • Prop them up on their elbows and use your hands to keep their elbows planted on your knees. You may need a funny sibling, a TV, or a mirror in front of your child as entertainment.
    • You can increase the incline of your legs by bringing your feet in closer towards your hips. The steeper the incline, the easier it will be for your child.
    • From your knees, you can bounce your child, rock them from side to side, or tilt them by lifting up one of your knees.
    • As your child gets better at this, you can challenge them by moving your feet out further away from your hips.

Need help?

If you want help with these suggestions or notice any of the above mentioned warning signs, a Physical Therapy evaluation can determine if your child is simply showing normal variability in gross motor development or if your child can benefit from intervention. Call me today at (704) 332-4834 ext. 114 to set up an evaluation. 


Boyles, Salynn. Infant Head Lag May Signal Autism. WebMD. N.p., 16 May 2012. Web. 16 Feb 2013.

Developmental Milestones: Head Control.  BabyCenter. BabyCenter, n.d. Web. 10 Feb 2013.

Warning Signs of Slow Development. Kids Growth . KG Investments, n.d. Web. 16 Feb 2013.