Q: My five-month-old son can’t consistently hold his head up on his own. Should I be worried or just patient?
A: Muscle and motor development occurs at an individual pace. Premature infants, or those who have been ill, may take a little longer to reach some milestones. However, there are guidelines that doctors follow to help us decide when to start investigating potential problems. Muscle control develops from the top down, so that by six weeks we expect to see that a baby can keep his head stable with a little help; if he’s moved, his head will still flop, so caregivers need to support it when lifting or carrying him.
By three months or so, his shoulder and neck muscles should have developed to the point where he has control of his head. Because your baby still has not reached this milestone at five months of age, you need to discuss your concerns with his doctor. Following a full assessment of your son’s motor skills, the doctor can decide whether your baby needs help with muscle development, and suggest treatment.
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