Ynoeuwr­b0o to 6rweneks HEAD START

GET­TING A Some­thing as sim­ple as good head con­trol opens the world up for your new­born

Your Baby & Toddler - - YOUR NEW BORN - BY NI­COLE HILBURN, PAE­DI­ATRIC PHYS­IO­THER­A­PIST AND CLAM­BER CLUB EX­PERT

Al­ready in their first hours of life, healthy new­borns try to lift their heads and dis­play in­tense move­ment ac­tiv­ity. How­ever, when a baby is born, he doesn’t have much con­trol over his limbs and body. His pos­ture is dom­i­nated by his heavy head, which he isn’t able to lift at birth. In­deed, a baby’s head at birth ac­counts for 25 per­cent of his en­tire body length and 33 per­cent of his body’s vol­ume. So while it may seem that learn­ing to con­trol and move his own head is a small thing, it is ac­tu­ally a sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment that is vi­tally im­por­tant for the de­vel­op­ment of many other skills. Head con­trol is ac­tu­ally the start of your baby’s mo­bil­ity.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?

De­vel­op­ing head con­trol en­ables your baby to look around and use his eyes ef­fec­tively, hold his head up against grav­ity while sit­ting, and use his mouth ef­fec­tively for speech and eat­ing. Re­mem­ber, your baby can’t start to learn how to sit, roll, crawl or walk with­out mas­ter­ing head con­trol first. So when you look at your baby’s first gawky at­tempts to lift his head, un­der­stand that these are his very first steps on the road to­wards the day when he can run, jump and skip all by him­self.

START­ING AT THE TOP

Dur­ing the first three to four months, your baby will learn to sup­port him­self se­curely on his hands. At first he will clench his hands in a fist, then grad­u­ally open them, us­ing fin­gers for sup­port. Your baby’s urge to lift his chest comes mainly from the sen­sa­tions of grav­ity, which stim­u­late the brain to con­tract the mus­cles in the up­per back. Through­out this time, your baby starts de­vel­op­ing core sta­bil­ity by strength­en­ing his back and tummy mus­cles, pro­vid­ing the ba­sis for head con­trol. This is why tummy time is en­cour­aged from a young age.

Mus­cle con­trol starts from the top of the body. Once your baby is able to sup­port his head when lift­ing it against grav­ity, con­trol moves down­ward in an or­derly se­quence. By the age of six months, your baby will be able to hold his back mus­cles steady enough to sit up. By the end of the year he will be try­ing to con­trol the leg mus­cles to stand up­right.

FROM DAY ONE As he lies against your chest or on his tummy, your new­born baby will try to lift his head, in­creas­ing the strength of his back and neck.

ONE MONTH Your baby is be­gin­ning to bob his head to and fro against your shoul­der. He may even lift his head briefly when ly­ing on his tummy. This hap­pens be­cause the pull of grav­ity stim­u­lates the part of the brain that ac­ti­vates the neck mus­cles that raise the head. Over the next few weeks, this adap­tive

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