When do Babies Hold Head Up?

The Big Holdup: An Important Early Milestone

You love your newborn, of course, but he's not the greatest company. He doesn't talk or play or do much of anything other than eat, sleep and dirty his diapers. That's why it's so exciting the first time he holds his head up. It might be your first little glimpse of his future independent self, moving around on his own—and it's always a relief to see your baby hitting all his milestones on time. Your baby operates on his own timetable, but babies typically lift their heads within the first few months of life.

What a Lift

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Neck Development in Babies

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Being able to hold their heads up is a big deal for babies. It's a sign that they're developing motor skills and that their neck muscles are getting stronger. A baby who can lift his own head can also engage with toys during tummy time and turn his head to track movements and sounds, which is an important part of his cognitive development. Learning to lift the head is also a precursor to learning to sit up.

Most babies can lift their heads by the time they're 2 months old. Some infants reach this milestone during the first month of life. By 2 months old, you should also notice your baby smiling at you, turning his head to follow sounds and moving his arms and legs independently.

You'll probably see your infant first attempt to lift his head during tummy time. His head and neck should be supported when he's lying in his crib, nursing or lying in a car seat, so tummy time may be the only time when he feels the need to raise his head. He may be able to maintain this position for only a few seconds at first, but it should gradually become more comfortable over time. He'll still need you to support his head and neck while he's upright.

By 4 months, most babies can hold their heads up unsupported for longer periods of time and can mostly keep their heads up when held upright. A 4-month-old infant can usually push himself up to his elbows when lying on his stomach, and he should be able to bear some weight on his legs, sit up with support and demonstrate some hand-eye coordination.

Helping the Hold Up

Your baby will lift his own head only when he's strong enough to do it, but you can encourage the practice by engaging him during daily tummy time. Hold a favorite toy or book in front and slightly above his face so he has to pick his head up to see it. As he gets stronger, encourage him to pick up his head while he's lying on his back or sitting in a carrier by holding an interesting toy down near his feet.

When to Call the Doctor

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Large Muscle Development in Infants

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If by 2 months your baby doesn't lift his head at least during tummy time, mention it to your doctor. Some kids progress more slowly than others, so that alone doesn't mean there's anything wrong. But because delays in reaching his early milestones may delay other milestones like sitting and walking, it's best to talk to your pediatrician about any concerns.