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