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I have a 4-month old daughter.

Each time she is awake she gets some "tummy-time" where we put her on her stomach on a play-mat, to build up her neck muscles. She doesn't like it that much and usually ends up crying after a few minutes of this.

Also, when we hold her so she is facing us, against our chest, she often jerks her head back like she doesn't enjoy being held that way.

While we have noticed her neck support getting stronger, there's still a small amount of wobble there and we have to support it.

At what age should we expect her to be able to support her head without any support?

Is there any other exercises other than tummy-time we can do to improve her strength?

Update

My daughter will be 5 months in about a week's time and we have noticed a big improvement in her head control/strength over the past few weeks. I would say she has about 90% head control now. Thanks for all of your great answers!

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My daughter already supports her head very well and still hates to lay over her tummy. I don't know why... –  Rafael S. Calsaverini Jul 4 '12 at 22:54
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4 Answers

up vote 10 down vote accepted

On most developmental profiles, full head control is achieved by around five months. However, all children are different, so some develop head control sooner, some a little later. If a child doesn't have a reasonable degree of head control by 7 months, then I would refer her for a developmental check, but your daughter sounds pretty much on track at the moment.

Babies have an innate interest in making eye - contact and for looking at faces in general, so the best activity to foster head control is to sit her on your knee, supporting her so that you are face - to - face and go for some interaction time. - This will encourage her to hold her head up to look at your face. Place one hand behind her head though, so that her head can't flop too far back. This is a technique we use with children who have developmental disabilities, but it is equally applicable to uninjured babies too.

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Very good point about wanting to make eye contact. I've just got one nit to pick: infants shouldn't "sit up" until they can do so on their own, because their spine is not fully developed before then. But there are other comfortable positions. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 15 '11 at 11:58
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Hi Torben. Just a comment on your comment. I didn't use the term 'sit up' my friend. I said "sit her on your knee" with the important term afterwards being "Supporting her."! Just wanted to clarify as you obviously misunderstood. –  Andrew Brereton Jul 19 '11 at 16:02
    
Ah, thanks for the clarification! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Jul 19 '11 at 16:38
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I think the general rule of thumb is that by about 6 months they should be able to support it.

Here's a link to Babycentre:

Baby centre Head control

Obviously each baby is going to develop at their own speed. I'd also say that the strength your baby is showing is completely normal for its age.

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The fact that she jerks her head back is not necessarily a sign of dislike. It could also very well be that she just has not yet evolved enough accurate motor control for smaller and/or slower movements.

An infant's head is incredibly heavy - to the infant. Tummy-time is fine as long as she doesn't suffocate herself. Generally though, don't force physical training on newborns and infants, at least not until the child shows signs of sufficient neck muscle strength.

Let their bodies do the training at the speed that nature intended: Infants learn to move their head, while lying on their backs. Then they learn to turn over on their belly. Then they learn to lift their head. All of this trains their neck muscles, until they're finally able to control their head fully and without support.

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Generally babies necks will be strong enough to support its own head at around 6 months. So you've got a couple to go. There are some small exercises you can do with the baby to help the neck get stronger, here's one I liked the look of:

While the baby is on its back, sit in front of it and hold its hands. Lift the baby up gently towards you by its hands and put it back down again carefully. Do this once or twice a day and your baby's neck will begin to get stronger.

I wouldn't do this more than once or twice a day, and if you don't like the sound of it, your baby's neck will be fine in another couple of months anyway :)

Hope that helps!

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