Head control is one of the first challenges for the baby. During his first year of life, a succession of challenges occurs in terms of his motor skills, which is what will drive him to stand up and walk. For this process, which usually lasts a little more than 12 months, the baby begins with the control and mastery of the neck muscles, and later control of the head.
When the baby is born, his motor skills are not yet coordinated or serve any purpose. To adapt to the new environment in which he lives, the baby has a primary reflex activity that includes all the reflexes that persist until the third or fourth month.
At this stage the reflexes will begin to disappear to give rise to other reactions that will accompany the baby for the rest of his life, such as placing his hands forward to protect his head, when he loses his balance and falls.
The maturation that follows motor development, like that of the nervous system, is cephalocaudal, that is, it begins in the muscles that keep the head upright and continues downward, and then extends from the center of the body to the extremities.
This means that the baby first controls the muscles that support his head, then the back muscles that allow him to stay seated, and then the control of the legs and arms. The time to control each motor skill can be different for each baby, and progresses according to the months of life:
- In the first days of life, the baby retains the fetal posture it had in the womb. He usually keeps his legs as well as his arms bent and his fists closed. When lying on his stomach, he turns his head to the side of his preference, usually to the side with the most light or to the side where his mother is usually.
- Around of the third week, or even earlier, the baby is able to lift his chin and turn his head to either side. This way, you breathe more easily.
- During the second month, the position is more stretched than in the first, since the baby can lean on the forearms, lift the chest and keep the head elevated for short periods of time. The arms and legs are still hunched and the hands are usually a little more open. - During the third month, when the forearms are fully supported, the baby stretches the chest and raises the head in hypertension. Keeps your upper back straight and holds your head up.
- At the fourth month, lying on his back, the baby raises his head when, holding his hands, we exert a little force to lift him.
- With 6 months, controls the neck muscles; if you are lying down, lift your head to see your feet; and when seated, it perfectly supports the weight of the head.
Currently, it seems that many babies have good brain control from birth, but their muscles are still weak because they have not been exercised, and it is convenient for the adult to support their head and cervical spine, placing their hand on the baby's neck . Until the end of the first year, we must take care that the baby's head moves in harmony with his body to avoid injury to brain tissue.
Avoid activities that present a danger to the baby such as using jumpers such as those that hang on the door, lifting the baby abruptly above the adult's head, pretending to be thrown into the air or doing somersaults.
Regarding the muscles that support the head, babies can and should lie on their stomach for some time. In this position, in addition to brain control, babies exercise the muscles necessary to stay seated, to turn their body, to crawl, crawl, stand up, and walk.
- AMEI, World Association of Early Childhood Educators
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