At first, your baby’s head is his most vulnerable part, and he’ll have very little ability to control his head and neck muscles at birth. Head control will develop gradually, in stages, during his first six months.
What to look for:
At around four weeks your baby may be able to lift his head briefly and turn it from side to side when lying on his stomach. At around six to eight weeks, he may raise his head while lying on his back. Then he’ll be able to hold his head up in a car seat, infant carrier or baby sling, but not in a backpack. From around three to four months he’ll be able to raise his head and hold it steady while lying on his front, and by around six months he’ll be able to fully support his own head.
‘Until your baby is able to hold his head up completely unaided at around six months, always support his neck to prevent his head from lolling forwards or backwards,’ cautions John Wyatt, Professor of neonatal paediatrics at University College, London. ‘Otherwise, he may be at risk of jarring or injuring his neck.’
Your baby may be able to kick himself over from his tummy to his back when he’s as young as two to three months, although it will probably take him until he’s about five or six months to build the strength to flip from back to front.
What to look for:
Not all babies like to roll, and because they gain the strength at about the same age as they first learn to sit up, they sometimes prefer to go straight on to bottom shuffling, lunging and, eventually, crawling as a means of transport.
If your baby looks as if he might like to try rolling, try placing a toy to one side of him and see if he’ll roll over to reach it. You could even lie down on the floor next to him and see if he’ll roll towards you.