Neck Strength


My son is 6 months old and his pediatrician doesn't think he holds his head up as well as he should be at this age. She wants me to lay him on his stomach more, but he just screams when he is on his belly for more than a minute. Is there some way I can get him to like being on his stomach or some other way to strengthen his neck?

Dr. Greene's Answer

Time spent on the tummy and time spent sitting with support both help increase head strength, and increased neck strength makes tummy time more enjoyable.

Try lying on your stomach facing your baby, also on his stomach, and making faces at him or singing to him. You can place toys in front of him within arms’ reach to help keep him entertained and distracted. Telling him rhymes can also engage him for a bit. Also, try putting him on a bit of a foam wedge to support his chest. This should keep his head out of the turf and give him more to look at.

In addition, you can lay on your back, and lay your baby on top of your chest. He is still exercising his neck and back muscles, but he may not even know that it is “work”! Or, when you are carrying your baby, you can rest him face down on your arm. He will have a great view of the world around him while strengthening his neck. You can also lay him across your lap when you are in a seated position (or even burp him this way).

Tummy time doesn’t have to be long. Many brief periods throughout the day, such as four to six times a day, is fine. It might be nice to try comforting him other ways before picking him up, such as patting or singing. But keep the tummy sessions to less than a few minutes if he is too unhappy. A little struggling is good, but there’s no need for him to be miserable.

Last medical review on: May 07, 2008
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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