when do babies hold head up

Babies get a whole new view when they learn to hold their heads up and look around, but building that neck strength is no easy task. As with all baby milestones, there isn’t a specific date when your baby should reach this exciting milestone, and when your baby begins to lift her head largely dependent upon your baby.

Your baby needs to develop her neck, chest, and arm muscles to be able to hold her head up. These are the same muscles that will come in handy when it’s time to scoot, reach for things, sit without assistance, and crawl. Though the process of building those muscles isn’t always popular with babies, it’s important to get started on supervised tummy time early.

When do babies hold their heads up?

Learning to support the head takes time and practice. Watch for these benchmarks as your little one builds strength:

  • One month: Your baby might hold her head up for brief periods when she’s lying on her stomach.
  • Two months: Your baby might lift her head to 45 degrees and for longer periods. This can be a time of frustration as your little one tries to push this milestone.
  • Three months: Many babies can lift their heads 45 degrees by leaning on their forearms by this point.
  • Four months: Most babies can push up to 90 degrees on their hands and hold their heads level.

How do I help my baby develop these muscles?

Some babies love tummy time right from the start, as they enjoy exploring a playmat or simply a new viewpoint, but others do not enjoy lying face down. Though it might take some convincing at first, closely monitored tummy time can help babies develop the muscles they need to hold their heads up.

You can begin getting your baby acquainted with tummy time during the first month by lying her across your lap for a few minutes at a time during those fleeting alert periods. Gradually increase that time as your baby grows and spends more time awake. Working up to 15 to 20 minutes of tummy time each day helps your baby build those muscles and work toward mastery over head control.

Colorful engaging playmats make tummy time more exciting for babies, but it also helps to get down to eye level with your little one and talk, sing, or make silly faces to connect face-to-face while your baby builds physical strength.

What if my baby refuses tummy time?

Many babies scream in protest that minute tummy time begins. It’s a big adjustment from being cuddled in a parent’s arms to lying face-down and struggling to look up. It’s only natural that some babies won’t enjoy the process.

It’s important to remember that babies hit milestones on their own timelines. If tummy time causes stress and tears, take it slow. Be sure to try tummy time when your baby is fed and rested and simply aim for 1 to 2 minutes at first and try a few times a day. Time and practice are required to meet this milestone, but there it is not necessary to rush babies through this. Keep calm and keep trying. Soon enough, your baby will be sitting up and reaching for toys.

Photo: Getty Images