10 ways to develop head control in an infant

By | March 30, 2010

A friend has a daughter who was born a couple of months after Nisarga. She has hypotonia and is having trouble getting her daughter to do many things. She goes with him to a physiotherapist, but is feeling rather discouraged. As we chatted, I realized that with Nisarga having low muscle tone as well, and considering the amount of research and experimenting I do into encouraging movement, I had tons of very useful advice to offer.

We spoke about many milestones and specific motor achievements over a week or so of extensive chatting, and I am planning to share the ideas as different posts focused on specific subjects.

This one focuses on encouraging head control. Here are the different things I do (and some I haven’t yet done) with Nisarga:

  1. Tummy time. Lots of it. If your baby doesn’t like tummy time, put them on their tummies, and pick them up the moment they complain. Don’t force them to endure it, but don’t stop providing opportunities. With Nisarga, I found that these things often depend on mood. Sometimes, he can lie on his tummy indefinitely, other times, he will start crying even before he hits the ground. So don’t be in a hurry to decide that your baby doesn’t like tummy time, it may simply be their mood – tired, hungry, gas, sleepy, etc.
  2. Carry him upright. Carry in your arms, in a baby carrier…. this gives them opportunities to manage his head without having to lift it against gravity.
  3. Lying chest to chest on you as you recline. This is a modified kind of tummy time where he doesn’t have to bear so much weight on his hands and can lift his head to look at your face – motivation and ease.
  4. Put a rolled up towel under his armpits when on tummy to help him look up easier. N doesn’t really need this, as he’s happy to look up.
  5. Carry him facing the floor with his tummy on your arm.
  6. Swing him tummy down like an aeroplane
  7. Encourage him to look around. Move toys so that he has to turn his head to see them, show him things as you carry him around, get others in the home to call him so that he turns to look.
  8. One exercise I play is to sit him on my knees facing front. I look over one shoulder and call to him and give him a kiss. Then I do the same over the other shoulder. After a while he should start anticipating your moves and look at you and smile. (Not for very young babies, I guess)
  9. Talk to him as you move around the room so that he turns to look at you. Most infants will naturally want to follow their parents with their eyes (mothers in particular)
  10. Sit him on your knees or on a big rubber ball, hold him carefully and with enough support for his head, and sway him to music or a rhyme. You can also tilt him from side to side and front and back. Begin with small movements and move to larger movements only when he starts enjoying this. This helps him learn to make small corrections to keep his head upright.

Keep everything fun. It is not going to work if your child is resisting what is happening, since his energy will then not be with ‘flowing’ with the activity, but in avoiding it. Also, something fun for both of you is likely to be repeated regularly to coax laughs out of the little charmer than something that is an ordeal.

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