Hesperian Health Guides

Activities to Help the Child Lift and Control Her Head (and Use Her Eyes and Ears)

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HealthWiki > Disabled Village Children > Chapter 35: Early Stimulation and Development Activities > Activities to Help the Child Lift and Control Her Head (and Use Her Eyes and Ears)


One of the first skills a normal baby develops is the ability to lift the head and control its movement. Head control is needed before a child can learn to roll, sit, or crawl. Normally, a newborn child can lift or hold her head up for a moment, and she develops fairly good head control in the first months of life. Children with developmental delay are often slow to develop head control. We need to help them to develop reasonable head control before trying to help them to roll, sit, crawl, or walk.

To encourage the child to raise her head when lying face down, attract her attention with brightly colored objects that make strange or pretty sounds.

someone shaking a rattle to attract a baby's attention.

tic tic tic
If she does not lift her head, to help her, put her like this. Press firmly on the muscles on each side of the backbone and slowly bring your hand from her neck toward her hips. If the baby has trouble raising her head because of a weak back or shoulders, try placing a blanket under her chest and shoulders. Get down in front of her and talk to her. Or put a toy within reach to stimulate interest and movement.
a child lying face down while someone helps her to lift her head. DVC Ch35 Page 302-3.png Some children can do more if they lie on a ‘wedge’.
If the child has trouble lifting her head when lying face down, lay her against your body so that she is almost upright. This way she needs less strength to lift her head. To help her develop head control when lying face up, take her upper arms and pull her up gently until her head hangs back a little, then lay her down again.
a man speaking to a child that he holds against his chest while sitting nearly upright.
Look at the butterfly on my nose!
Good girl!
DVC Ch35 Page 302-5.png
CAUTION! Do not pull the child up like this if her head hangs back. As you begin to lift her, watch to see if her neck muscles tighten. If not, do not pull her up. Also, do not pull the child up like this if it causes her legs to straighten stiffly (see "Cerebral Palsy").
If a child with cerebral palsy stiffens as you pull his arms, try pulling the shoulder blades forward as you lift him up.
DVC Ch35 Page 302-7.png
a woman pulling a child up by the hands while the child's head hangs back.
NOT LIKE THIS


If the child cannot lift his head as you pull him up, then do not pull him up. Instead, sit the child up and gently tilt him back a little, encouraging him to hold his head up. Repeat often, and as he gains strength and control, gradually tilt him farther back—but do not let his head fall backward. DVC Ch35 Page 303-1.png If the baby makes almost no effort to lift or hold her head when you feed her, instead of putting the nipple or food into her mouth, barely touch her lips with it, and make her come forward to get it. DVC Ch35 Page 303-2.png

Good Carrying Positions

Carrying the child like this helps develop good head control, when he is face down. Positions that keep the hips and knees bent and the knees separate help relax and give better control to the child with cerebral palsy whose body straightens stiffly and whose knees press together. Carrying baby like this frees his head and arms to move and look around.
4 ways to carry a child.
As your child develops better head control, play with him, supporting his body firmly, but with his head and arms free. Attract his attention with interesting objects and sounds, so that he turns his head first to one side and then to the other. DVC Ch35 Page 303-4.png


This page was updated:19 Jan 2018