Written on 7 November 2017
Have you tried these stretching and strengthening exercises to increase neck strength and head control of your baby?
When you are still learning to hold your newborn baby in your arms, you always get instructions from the elders of the house to support the baby’s neck with one arm. This happens because the newborn baby’s muscles are not fully developed. Newborn babies develop their skills gradually and you can help your baby strengthen his/her neck muscles by simple exercises. Stages of neck development and head control vary on children as some kids may achieve that sooner while others take a little longer. The muscles in the neck are at their weakest point when the baby is born and it’s highly important to support the neck of your newborn baby every time you lift him/her. After a month you can observe the changes in your baby because he/she might make few attempts to either lift the head or turn it in different directions while lying on the tummy. Gradually the development of bones and muscles increases and that helps the child to hold their head upright and follow their body when they sit, stand, crawl or lie down.
Similarly, the baby will establish head control gradually as their muscles develop. Although in the beginning, it’ll be shaky however if you’re practicing some exercises and regularly doing massages then by 5-6 months, you’ll notice that the baby can have steadier control over his/her head. When your baby will learn to hold the head up, you’ll notice that the baby has started sitting up, crawling, and can rollover. Your child needs to reach development milestones in their own time because by that time you’ll start feeding solids to your baby also. You must make sure that your baby is sitting on the high chair when you are feeding solids to your little one. Here are some exercises that can help in strengthening your infant’s neck muscles and head control:
Tummy time- One of the best and simplest ways to strengthen the neck muscles of your baby is to place your baby on his/her tummy. You can start practicing this on your newborn baby by placing your baby belly down on your chest or lap for few minutes (approximately 2-3 times per day). You can gradually increase the time until you reach 20 minutes per session and just make sure you never leave your baby unattended. If your baby gets cranky during tummy time you can prop it up by placing an extra blanket or padding to provide comfort to your little one.
Allow the baby to observe- When your baby is sitting on your lap let him/her rest their back against you and simply allow them to watch the world go by.
Let him/her reach- Invest in some colorful toys that have light and sound because that can keep your baby engaged for hours. You can place the toy slightly far from the reach of the baby and once the baby notices its colorful lights and rhythmic sounds h/she will try to reach out for the toys and that will strengthen the neck muscles and the head control.
Stretching the neck- Some babies are born with a large head or their neck muscles are quite weak and this is not an abnormality. It's just that newborn babies can face difficulty in turning around and some external push is recommended under the supervision of an expert. If you notice that your child is sleeping with his/her head in one direction then you must gently lift the head and change the direction. Don’t try anything with the force as that can be life-threatening.
If you rae working on some simple sitting-up exercises at home with your baby then your child will sooner learn to sit up straight and will have good body control. You must gently guide your baby in the entire process of strengthening exercises as that will help your baby reach other milestones of development easily. Although rare, if you notice a Head Lag in your baby then you must immediately consult a pediatrician. It is a situation where the baby’s neck muscles are too weak and unable to support the head (around 3-4 months after birth) and this happens due to many reasons for instance- low birth weight, cerebral palsy, and preterm birth.
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