As your baby grows from a seemingly fragile newborn to an independent toddler, you’ll marvel at all the physical changes along the way.

One of these will be when your baby can hold her head up on her own without your support. This will be a wonderful development milestone to see, but when exactly is it likely to happen?

Find out when your baby is likely to be able to hold her head up, what you can do to help her in developing head control, and why it’s important for you to support her head in the meantime.

When Can Babies Hold Their Head Up?

When your little one reaches about 4 months old, you’ll most likely see him hold his head and chest up as he leans on his elbows while lying on his tummy.

This is a big moment! Your baby has reached a major milestone, because now he has the freedom to look any which way he pleases.

Keep in mind that every baby is different and develops at a different rate. Your baby may reach this milestone a little earlier or later than this.

How Does Your Baby Develop the Strength to Hold Her Head Up?

When your baby is between 1 and 3 months old, she’ll be gradually gaining the strength needed to hold her head up.

By around 2 months, while she's lying on her stomach, you might notice she can raise her head for just a few seconds at a time.

These brief moments help strengthen the muscles in the back of her neck. Eventually she will also start to develop control of her front neck muscles for total head and neck control.

What Are Some Other Developments Around the Time Your Baby Starts to Hold His Head Up?

You can also look forward to the following forms of physical development around the time your baby is able to hold his head up:

  • Your baby’s abdominal muscles will be getting stronger, which means your baby will be able to raise his head and chest when lying on his back

  • Your baby’s legs will become stronger as his kicks will go from being reflexive to forceful, and his legs will begin to lose the bowing they had when he was a newborn

  • Your baby will be able to roll over, which also means it’s worth keeping a close eye and a hand on your little one when he’s up above floor level, such as when he's on the changing table.

How Can You Help Your Baby Develop Her Head Control?

To help your baby strengthen the neck and back muscles needed to hold her head up independently, give your baby tummy time every day. An ideal time to start tummy time is soon after you bring your baby home from the hospital.

Tummy time involves laying your baby on her stomach two to three times a day for short periods, such as three to five minutes, with your close supervision.

Daily tummy time sessions can help your baby strengthen her neck, back, and shoulder muscles as she cranes to look up at you. And, you can even dangle toys in front of her to encourage her to look up and engage those muscles.

How Should You Support Your Baby’s Head in the Meantime?

In your baby’s first few months, you’ll need to carry him carefully to ensure his head doesn’t flop from side to side or front to back.

Cradle your baby’s head when carrying him in the lying position, and support his head and neck when carrying him upright.

Eventually he’ll be able to hold his head up, and you will no longer need to provide this type of support.

When Can You Stop Supporting Your Baby’s Head?

By the time your baby is about 4 months old, she will likely be able to hold up her head and chest as she supports herself on her elbows, giving her more freedom and control to look around her. This will be nice change for you, as you won’t have to support your baby’s head as much as you did before when carrying her.

Even so, it’s important to watch out for sudden or forceful movements when carrying your baby. Carry her carefully and steadily when moving from place to place.

What if Your Baby Isn’t Able to Hold His Head Up Yet?

It’s natural for some babies to develop a little earlier or later than others, as each baby is unique. However, if you think your baby isn’t mastering head and neck control and he’s already around 4 months old, check in with his healthcare provider.

Try not to worry unnecessarily, though. Instead, consult your healthcare provider, who will be able to track your little one’s development, notice any issues, and recommend the right treatment options where necessary.

Watching your baby reach each development milestone will fill you with pride and joy. Improved head and neck control is just one of the things you have to look forward to. In no time at all, your baby will be crawling, walking, talking… and so much more!

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How we wrote this article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.